Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of a man who was instrumental in the development of modern America. Unlike many years, this year Martin Luther King Day is actually on King’s birthday: Januray 15th. Most years I celebrate very simply, by just reflecting on the words and the life of Dr. King, and typically listening to “Southern” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Obviously Dr. King’s life can’t really be reduced to 3½ minutes of a song by a synthpop band, but I always found OMD’s tribute moving nonetheless.
Toward the end of 2016, I did a blog post where I shared a few quotes from Jesus, and I noted that, regardless of whether you believed in his status as Messiah and Savior, his words were still powerful. Dr. King holds a similar position in my mind: you may not agree with everything he stood for, but even if you agree with our current president that Nazis can be good people too, or you’re a little nostalgic for the “good old days” of separate-but-equal, it’s still hard to ignore powerful statements like the following. Here are my favorite quotes from the man:
Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
We must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.
One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
It’s wrong to hate. It always has been wrong and it always will be wrong. It’s wrong in America, it’s wrong in Germany, it’s wrong in Russia, it’s wrong in China. It was wrong in 2000 B.C., and it’s wrong in 1954 A.D. It always has been wrong, and it always will be wrong.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
So, tomorrow, I’ll reflect on these words, and be happy that my three little (and not so little) children can live in a nation where they are exposed to ideas like these, where words such as these are considered important enough that we set aside a day to contemplate them. We’re all benefitting from Dr. King’s dream. Obviously we still have a ways to go before we get to the promised land, but I do believe we’re on the path. And we have one man, and his relentless dream to thank for it.
So, thank you, Dr. King.