Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a master of the soaring rhetoric of the conscience. His most thought-provoking sentiments played on our sense of duty to be active participants in making the world a better place.
He once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”’
King’s legacy, unfortunately, isn’t as expansive as it probably should be. History has fixated on his biggest triumph — the March on Washington he organized in 1963 to bring awareness to the civil rights movement.
During the march, King’s inspirational “I Have A Dream” speech, which focused on integrating African Americans into American society at large, became the impetus for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But King spoke out on all aspects of structural injustice. To transcend America’s evil trio of racism, poverty and war, Americans would have to undergo “a radical revolution of values,” he said exactly one year before he was assassinated in 1968.
Speaking on April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church in New York, King said, “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.”
The Albuquerque-based Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Multicultural Council, with a singular purpose of elevating the memory of Dr. King, has used the MLK holiday to remind the public King’s dream was both broad and simple — and still needs to be carried forward.
His platform addressed dignity, justice, police brutality, voting rights, fair housing, economic opportunity, workers rights and the futility of war. He was a champion of education as the conduit to a fair and just society. “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” he said.
Sadly, the challenges of Dr. King’s time are still with us and remain as wellsprings for the modern social justice movement. In his time, King spoke of the need to tackle problems with urgency: “The time is always right to do what’s right.” But he also possessed the wisdom that changes take time: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”
King’s ability to establish a moral framework to address problems offers everyday citizens the opportunity to be a part of his dream, said Harold Bailey, president of the Albuquerque NAACP.
“I think we all need to embrace diversity and inclusion, and if we do that, we’re going to do the right thing,” he said. “The future is in the hands of young people. They’re smart enough to know what’s right and what’s wrong: to support what Dr. King stood for — and stands for today — vote one’s conscience, speak out when you see racism and help everyone that you possibly can in a way that’s going to benefit everybody.”
King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
And many of his most famous quotes revolve around the theme of reconciliation:
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Today, his words still ring true and are more important than ever.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.