"From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
At the west end of the National Mall in Washington, DC stands a monument to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. In the memorial to the Father of the Emancipation Proclamation, a solitary figure of Lincoln sits, nobly surrounded by inscriptions of his most famous addresses, seemingly still thinking about just how much further we as a nation need to go to realize our full potential. It was no accident that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. chose to stand in front of the Lincoln Memorial to give the most important speech of his life.
With the reassuring sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in his shadow, Dr. King woke our national collective consciousness when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28th, 1963. His unparalleled ability to communicate paired with his undying commitment to non-violent activism, pinpointed the racism and intolerance that plague our nation. His personal sacrifices, as well as his inspirational leadership are what ultimately brought us the Civil Rights Act; and to him, a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize.
Forever remembered for his revolution of passive resistance, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day memorializes the man himself, and his inexhaustible struggle to purify and cleanse the fabric of our nation soiled by centuries of slavery, disenfranchisement, prejudice and hatred. Through King's "zen-ness," he never lost sight of making a better world by imagining freedom and justice for all. His annual holiday also honors those who came before him and those still involved in the ongoing struggle for human and civil rights here and worldwide.
Joyously, the day after King's holiday, we'll be inaugurating our first ever African-American President. Most of us could never imagine a day when not just any man -- but the man who will next lead our nation - could be elected because he was judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin.
Despite the eight years of tyranny and neglect; despite the fact that President Obama will have to spend the first years of his presidency cleaning up the Bush-Cheney mess; despite the worsening financial crisis and our nation's reputation backsliding into a sinkhole -- despite it all -- there is still a tangible sense of renewal and relief. (George who??)
The seeds that Dr. King sowed 45 years ago have taken root. Today more than ever, he now seems with us. His premonition of not reaching the Promised Land at this moment seems false because Barack Obama is standing on King's shoulders. On January 20th our entire nation will be standing there with him as well.
So on this national holiday, why not honor Dr. King's lifelong work of peaceful change by allowing yourself to mindfully reflect on tolerance and acceptance -- as well as the possibility of hope and change? Make time to remember our nation's continuous struggle for liberty, equality and dignity for all races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, classes, ages, and any of the other artificial barriers we build to separate ourselves from those we fear or assume are different from ourselves. Especially right now, as we hail a new administration, let's imagine King's vision of a social, political and physical environment where we are all, indeed, free at last.