Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a hero to me, one of a very small group of people that I have ever put into that category.
In his short 39 years, Dr. King made a lasting impact upon the world before his life was horrifically taken away. He did not shy away from the calling upon his life to fight for equality and justice, basic rights that should be fully available to all humans. He chose to seek change not with violence or malice, but with peace, humility, and great personal sacrifice.
I concur with Rep. John Lewis’ words below that “we still have a great deal of work to do.” However, I believe that we have seen fruits from Dr. King’s labor. His words and actions have brought forth positive changes and they continue to shine light upon the injustice and inequality in our world. His heart cried out for equality for all people and the echoes of that cry are still being reverberated today. It is my sincere hope that each of us can be an active part in fulfilling his dream and not allow it to ever be forgotten.
U.S. Reps. John Lewis, Sanford Bishop, Jr., and Hank Johnson share their remembrances of Dr. King after the break.
Rep. John Lewis (D, GA-5):
“Born 87 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the greatest moral voice of the 20th century. Through his words and by his example he spoke to the hearts of millions of Americans and citizens of the world. He demonstrated to all of us that non-violent action has the power to transform a people, an entire nation and a world community. He showed us that love in action has the power to overcome hatred and oppression. His ‘dream’ involved more than one historic speech on the National Mall. He was working to build what he called the Beloved Community — a society based on simple justice that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.
As we face the rising tide of hate and violent aggression in the early days of the 21st century, it is clear we still have a great deal of work to do to manifest his vision of true peace. So many of the hostilities we confront today remind me too much of 50 years ago. What we had then that we are missing today is the moral arguments of Dr. King that helped us contemplate the state of our society and gave us the courage to take action against injustice.
As you move through the King holiday weekend no matter how you have decided do to serve others, whether you feed the homeless, read a book to young children, share music with the elderly or assist the sick or disabled, I encourage you also to spend some time reading Dr. King’s words. They can help illuminate the darkness of our time.
He said, ‘Violence as a way of achieving… justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.’
He said, ‘…Cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And…expedience … asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.’
He said, ‘Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.'”
Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D, GA-2):
“As we commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we remember to work for a future brighter than the past, filled with the opportunities that give our nation so much promise. Dr. King envisioned a world where all are created equal, but his dream has only begun to be realized.
In order to make Dr. King’s dream a reality, we must all continue to strive toward a future free from discrimination, full of opportunity, devoid of homelessness, and with equal access to education so Americans can live up to their God-given potential. When we stand up against inequity, we work for a future filled with greater promise, and a reality with greater justice for all.
Dr. King lived, and eventually gave, his life refusing to stand silent in the face of adversity and turmoil. He once said, ‘Faith is sometimes taking the first step without seeing the full staircase.’ Dr. King helped us to take the first steps toward equality, we must help to finish building the staircase of justice and equal opportunity for all.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D, GA-4):
“More than a half a century ago, a young preacher called a generation to action and forever changed the course of American history.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. devoted his life to justice and equality, sowing seeds of hope for a day when all people might claim ‘the riches of freedom and the security of justice.’
Dr. King led us toward a mountaintop on which all Americans—regardless of skin color—could live together in mutual respect and harmony. His fearless leadership and prophetic eloquence united people of all backgrounds in a noble quest for freedom and basic civil rights.
Inspired by Dr. King’s legacy, unflinching souls have marched endlessly, organized relentlessly, and devoted their lives to the never-ending task of perfecting our union. Their bravery and dedication have carried us closer to the promised land Dr. King dreamed and spoke about, but we must understand their achievements as milestones on the long road to true opportunity and equal rights.
We must face our challenges today with the same strength, persistence, and resolve as Dr. King, guided by the enduring values of hope and justice embodied by our civil rights leaders such as The Rev. C.T. Vivian, Dr. Joseph Lowery, Ambassador Andrew Young and my friend and colleague Congressman John Lewis.
America must expand access to opportunity and tear down structural inequalities. Only then can we have truly equal access to employment and economic mobility. All of us must work to ensure a strong foundation that supports economic security and extends the founding promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to every American.
During his life, Dr. King was committed to serving others, reminding us that ‘human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle—the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.’
Commemorating Dr. King’s life is not only a tribute to his legacy, but also a reminder that each of us can play a part in continuing his noble work.
For this reason, we honor Dr. King’s contributions with a national day of service. I encourage all Americans to learn more about service opportunities in our communities and across the country. By dedicating this day to service, we move our nation closer to Dr. King’s vision of all Americans living and working together as one beloved community.”