Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
(January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)
Letter from a Birmingham Jail – April 16, 1963
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
The “I have a Dream” speech is certainly Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most oft quoted public oration. On this, the 53th year anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, let’s take a brief moment to reflect on the other facets of his life and legacy that bring us together to celebrate on this day of his birth, 92 years ago.
Not merely a dreamer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in education in all its forms as the key to individual growth. Education enables social advancement, understanding, and cooperation to build a just society.
As a civil rights activist, Dr. King practiced both non-violence and civil disobedience and was equally eloquent in print as he was at oration.
In the last years of his life, wearied by death threats, the slow pace of progress in the civil rights movement and facing criticism from other African American leaders, Dr. King persevered and discerning the connection between discrimination and poverty stated, “The economic problem is the most serious problem confronting the poor community.”
A Nobel Peace Prize winner, (1964) his plea for peace in response to the war in Vietnam, delivered at The Riverside Church in New York City (April 4, 1967), Dr King articulated, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Too often, as the public remembers Dr. King we hear politician’s offer idle lip service to his memory. Today, in honor of Keeping the Dream Alive as we honor Dr. King’s legacy, I charge our elected officials and their appointees, our employees, with making public policy that truly reflects the life and legacy of Dr. King. Government policy that includes economic and social justice, and equal civil rights for all, in a spirit of public service that that strives to meet the basic needs of the members of our community who are most in need.
In this spirit of service and generosity of spirit, we today, remember his spirit.
Ernest W Sturdevant
January 18, 2021