Reflections on the Eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

This past summer we traveled to Washington, D.C. for a short vacation and visited the MLK Memorial. You can read about the memorial on the National Park Service website by clicking here.

The Memorial is breathtaking. The statue of Dr. King is huge, and his famous quotes are carved into the walls surrounding. Here is a picture from our trip:

Little M. at the MLK Memorial

Little M. at the MLK Memorial

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – 1963

A description of the memorial, from washington.org:

The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. His likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope, which emerges powerfully from two large boulders. The two boulders, which started as one, represent the Mountain of Despair. The boulders are split in half to give way to the Stone of Hope, which appears to have been thrust forward toward the horizon in a great monolithic struggle. The Stone of Hope and the Mountain of Despair together represent the soul-stirring words from Dr. King’s history-making “I Have a Dream” speech. On the visible side of the Stone of Hope, the text from King’s famed 1963 speech is cut sharply into the rock: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Every visitor enters through the Mountain of Despair and tours the memorial as if moving through the struggle that Dr. King faced during his life. Visitors end in the open freedom of the plaza. The solitary Stone of Hope stands proudly in the plaza, where the civil rights leader gazes over the Tidal Basin toward the horizon, forever encouraging all citizens to strive for justice and equality.

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of December 10, 1964.

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.

***

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

You can read the entire speech on the Nobel Prize website by clicking here. It’s a great speech, well worth your time.

Two years ago I posted about MLK day, amazed that Dr. King was only 39 years old when he was assassinated. You can see that post here.

Dr. King was born in 1929, so he’d be celebrating his 86th birthday this month. I wonder if things would be different today if he hadn’t been killed. How would his influence develop over the years? How would he feel about what’s going on politically and socially in the world? Maybe some of the recent horrible events, domestic and international, wouldn’t have happened at all.

Sadly, we will never know what he could have further accomplished. I bet it would have been significant.

May he rest in peace.

 

 

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