Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jerald A.S. Alexander
435th Air Base Wing
Military Equal Opportunity

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, what are your plans for the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday weekend? Visit a winter resort here in Europe. Depart for a warm climate to enjoy the waves and sun. On the other hand, just partake in a no-thrill rest and relaxation break.

Take a moment to reflect upon why we honor Dr. King’s birthday. It is difficult to envision how our nation once accepted blatantly unlawful discrimination. The myth of the subhuman origin of African-Americans along with other racial/ethnic groups once permeated our democratic society as an acceptable norm.

***image2***At the time of Dr. King’s birth in 1929, noted journalist and early 20th century writer Henry Louis Mencken wrote, “The educated Negro of today is a failure, not because he meets insuperable difficult efforts, his ideals, no matter how laboriously he is trained and sheltered, remain those of a clown.”

There is a tendency to define this celebration based on race, color or origin. Some perceive the civil rights movement as an afterthought. Unfortunately, this process of thinking may reiterate bygone transgressions and deny the sins of the past. In his 1967 speech, “Where Do We Go From Here,” presented to the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King explained, “As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free.”

Throughout communities in the States and here in Europe, we will honor Dr. King’s birthday by adults and children reciting the famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the Aug. 28, 1963, “March on Washington.” This day is a reflection illustrating his self-sacrificing valor along with the struggles he encountered.

Stories will talk of his accomplishments as a minister, 1964 Time’s Man of the Year, Nobel Peace Prize winner (youngest male Nobel Peace Prize honoree at age of 35), scholar, author of numerous esteemed books, orator, founder and leader of SCLC.

Time magazine in 1998 ranked him as the seventh most influential leader and revolutionary of the 20th century. Nevertheless, his faith and fame included hardships such as his stabbing in 1958, other physical attacks, the bombings of his home, death threats and numerous incarcerations.

In his book, “Strength to Love,” Dr. King wrote, “My personal trials have also taught me the value of unmerited suffering. As my suffering mounted, I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation – either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force.  I decided to follow the latter. Recognizing the necessity for suffering, I have tried to make of it a virtue.”

 How each of us observes this holiday is a personal choice – one of the many privileges of living in a democracy. Yet, if we do not actively engage ourselves in our communities through volunteering, speaking out against injustices, global poverty, human trafficking, crisis of oppression along with unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment, we allow our impassive silence or indolent behavior to blind us from reality. 

While speaking at a gathering in Los Angeles in 1962, Dr.  King quoted the words of an enslaved African-American preacher, “We ain’t what we ought to be and we ain’t what we want to be and we ain’t what we’re going to be. But thank God, we ain’t what we was.”

We honor the memory of Dr. King by striving each day to practice tolerance, self-discipline, charity and, most importantly, love for one another.