Jan. 16 was a federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 94th birthday, observed across the nation and around the world. It is a holiday to some but a holy day to others.
Reflecting on the life of an iconic figure in the history of this nation, we all know that Dr. King inspired millions of us. Why? Dr. King was a drum major for peace, justice and righteousness. He was the conscience of his generation. He was an uncompromising champion of human rights and nonviolence; like Mahatma Gandhi, he believed that nonviolence is an infinitely superior method of achieving social justice and resolving conflicts.
When Dr. King shared his dream in one of the most famous speeches in history, it also became our dream. But he was also a great man of action. He led the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 nonviolently and led the movement resulting in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
His activism and nonviolent protests became a triumph of courage and love bringing down the wall of segregation and hate through the power of love and nonviolence. His words sparked a nonviolent revolution that changed the course of history in this nation.
Dr. King is not with us today, but he lives in our hearts and minds. We can still draw on his message, courage and wisdom with these words:
His life informs us and enlightens us.
His dream sustains us and nurtures us.
His words inspire us and empower us.
His struggle energizes us and strengthens us.
His cause still endures, and his dream still lives on.
Today, Dr. King would strongly condemn the violence that we witness today across the nation—the violence we see in our homes, our communities and our schools, as well as the violence that occurred on Jan. 6 two years ago at the Capitol Building.
He would not only speak against the epidemic of gun violence but also advocate for a ban on assault weapons.
He would oppose the war and violence in Ukraine as he opposed the war in Vietnam. He would instead strongly recommend dialogue and diplomacy. He would also reach out to moral and spiritual leaders of the world to intervene in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, leading the efforts himself.
In the United States:
He would want to see a new era in the political history of the nation. Republicans and Democrats working together to find common ground for the benefit of the entire nation. Addressing healthcare for all, homelessness, mental health, Covid-19, elimination of student debt, the climate crisis and sound immigration policies that would pave the way for citizenship. He would condemn and protest strongly the suppression of voting rights, for which he fought vigorously.
He would also ask all of us an important question: “What are you doing for others?” Let us not forget that Dr. King’s birthday is also a “National Day of Service.”
In honor of the National Day of Service, volunteers gathered for the Beautify Fresno project, which offered cleanup events at different locations in the community. In the year ahead, volunteers can contact HandsOn Central California for a list of other opportunities for service in our community.
Dr. King might well say it eloquently today:
My Dear Fellow Americans,
It is a time for healing, not hate or finger-pointing. There is no room for hate in any form or shape in this nation—no room for antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia or Hindu- or Sikh-phobia.
It is a time for unity, not polarization or divisiveness.
It is a time for compassion, forgiveness and understanding, not revenge or retribution.
It is a time for acceptance and celebration of diversity, mutual respect and civility, not provocation, harassment or bullying.
It is a time to work for integration, not separation or segregation.
It is a time for redemption and reconciliation, not dehumanization or demonization.
It is a time to serve those who lack resources to meet their basic needs and are suffering because of circumstances beyond their control.
On Dr. King’s birthday, let us recommit ourselves to nonviolence and nonviolent resistance. Dr. King gave us a blueprint to follow on the journey as we fight for justice, equality and human rights for all.
In his speeches and writings, Dr. King mentioned his dream of creating a “beloved community.” He believed that a community of love, justice and solidarity would eventually be realized.
Let us be the beacon of light. Let us set aside our differences for the betterment of all. Let us work together to realize the dream of Dr. King in creating the beloved community and symphony of brotherhood.
He further articulated his dream in “World House”—the final chapter in his book titled Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. He wrote that “all inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors…Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”
The major barriers in the realization of Dr. King’s dream, as mentioned in his writings and speeches, are racism, materialism (consumerism), militarism and sexism.
Let us remember that we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all of us indirectly because we are one human family and are connected. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Let us remember the lesson that he taught us, that we will not judge people by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Let us remember Dr. King’s belief that “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.” His words and teachings influenced this author’s mantra: Fear not, hate not and hurt not.
Dr. King’s message of love, peace, justice and brotherhood is relevant today and will remain relevant for generations to come.