As an African American and even more as an American citizen, I recognize that I live in a world that is better because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived. He is a great example for each of us showing us that standing on the side of truth can be arduous, but the principle of conviction can overcome any obstacle. His conviction guided him through the imminence of death, the responsibility of leadership during uncertainty, and faith to endure constant adversity.
“Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait (1963)
Dr. King’s wisdom was clear, bold, deft – a clear call to be nonconformist, courageous, true to oneself, and empowered and enlightened. In essence, his message was to be an individual who seeks to improve both himself and society through the creation of new attitudes, new vocabularies, new outlooks, and new visions – under-girded by integrity and conviction.
He is the American ideal – forged out of the struggle of revolution and remembered for a legacy that defied the status quo and inspired a nation to fight for what is right.
- I am grateful Dr. King possessed the tenacity to challenge the nation to create new attitudes about race in America. He evoked a social conscience that encouraged Americans to not see color but rather humanity.
- I am grateful Dr. King possessed the vision to challenge the nation to create new vocabularies that dispelled hate, violence, and discrimination for a vernacular that evoked love, peace, and tolerance.
- I am grateful Dr. King possessed the intelligence to challenge the nation to create new outlooks which compelled what he deemed as the “fierce urgency of now” – a clear call that argued equal rights for people of color was not a singular American issue but rather interwoven with the plight for world peace. This new outlook called for revolutionary love, urgent agents of change, and an ecumenical world community that held hostility toward poverty, racism, exploitation, and oppression.
- I am grateful Dr. King possessed the character to challenge the country to create new visions that embraced the founding principles of our nation that proclaimed all men are created equal. His celebrated speech envisioned an America where all citizens believed they had the opportunity to openly experience life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
On the day of his remembrance we should all not only be inspired but also compelled to act. We can best celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by personally embracing it. As people of good will, let’s use our time effectively to always proclaim truth and boldly stand for what is right.
Charles Edwards is the Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Greater Atlanta Christian School.
Photo credit: Mario Lozano, Greater Atlanta Christian School