Today, we honor the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I won’t take up a whole lot of your time writing some eloquent piece about what Dr. King means to the American people — you already know the story.
Rather, use this time to reflect upon the teachings and principles Dr. King left us with; the importance of love, the importance of unity, the importance of equality and peace, and the importance of dreaming.
Use this time to practice doing for others. Dr. King once said, “What are you doing for others?” Sometimes we have to take a step back to evaluate ourselves, and really think about what we’re doing to not only for ourselves, but what we are doing for others to make this world a better place.
Today, my children and I will pay a visit to the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington and take a stroll down the National Mall to show them where Dr. King gave his iconic oration on August 28, 1963.
But before we leave the house today, I will go over a few things about Dr. King with my children that I would like to share with you. There is so much to remember about Dr. King because of all he contributed to civil rights and equality for all people, but let us never forget that he gave the ultimate sacrifice to advance the cause of equal rights and justice for not just black people, but for ALL people.
I want my children to be inspired by Dr. King, and although they don’t quite understand the struggle and the legacy just yet, I want them to know that it is OK to dream, that it is OK to reach high, and if there is something they want in life, the should never be afraid to go out there and get it.
1. Dr. King went to college when he was only 15.
We already know Dr. King was a very intelligent man. Because he was driven, determined, and a natural hard worker, he was already ordained before he graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in Sociology. I want to remind my children that age, race, and economic factors have nothing to do with what you can accomplish in life. If you dream it, go out and make it happen.
2. Dr. King went to prison nearly 30 times.
This is a very important lesson right here. I obviously don’t want my children to think it’s OK to go to prison (different day, different time), but I do want them to know that the journey will not always be easy. I want them to know that there will be bumps in the road along the way, and there will always be people around who will not lift you up. But if you know you are on the right path, and you know you are doing the right thing, don’t let those bumps in the road stop you from reaching that dream. Keep striving.
3. MLK Day was the first holiday to recognize a black man.
Now would you listen to that? The first holiday to recognize a black man! And Dr. King was only the third person to ever hold the distinction of a national holiday, other than Christopher Columbus and George Washington. Now if that isn’t an accomplishment, I don’t know what is. Although all 50 states refused to celebrate this holiday initially, we have obviously come a long way.
4. Dr. King was the youngest of his time to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1964, at the ripe age of 35, Dr. King was the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Dr. King donated the entire $54,600 prize to the Civil Rights effort. This is an important fact for my children to remember, because it teaches them about selflessness. Although Dr. King had just received one of the most notable awards in history, he still remained humble. Not only that, but he donated his entire financial prize to a greater cause. Some things are bigger than us, and sometimes it’s not all about our individual advancement. We should be inspired by what Dr. King did and use his generosity as an example of how we all should be.
5. Violence was not the answer.
Dr. King was inspired by the nonviolent teachings of leaders like Gandhi. He believed that love was one of the most important tools for success, and he certainly lived by that example. Join me in teaching your children that violence and hate never get anyone anywhere. Peaceful protests, peaceful demonstrations, and peaceful sermons and speeches are what Dr. King delivered to people around the world. He once said that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Before we go out and reflect on the teachings of Dr. King, and participate in this day of service to help others, let us reflect on the words of Dr. King from that memorable day in 1963:
“I have a dream that America will pray and God will forgive us our sins”...”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”...”I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together”...”I have a dream of re-creating the fantastic family I grew up in with my brother and my parents. I am lucky that I have such a good image of family life - my father and mother are still in love, still happy”...”I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood”...
I want my children to know that Dr. King once had a dream — A dream that resonated with people around the world, inspiring those from every race and every walk of life, to join in the fight for equality.
I want my children to know that they too can dream, that they too can look out into the world and believe that one day, they can become something great.
Just as Dr. King taught us, there is no better time than now to do what is right. Let us come together to do what is right, and inspire our children, the next generation of leaders, to lead us into peace, happiness, and a world of prosperity for all people. Let us all continue to sit together at the table of brotherhood.