America was founded on ideas which, at the time, constituted a radical new perspective on natural freedoms and the relationship between government and the governed. The people were considered free citizens rather than subjects of a king. Today this way of thinking hardly seems controversial — It’s considered so obviously true, so self-evident, that we often take it for granted.
The Founding Fathers issued the Declaration of Independence because they conceived the world in a way that differed from virtually all traditional modes of thought at the time. But as radical as their vision was, it fell well short of the true promise of liberty and equality. Through slavery, reconstruction, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, and even today, our nation has relied on the voices and deeds of everyday Americans — of all races and creeds — to march forward the dream of freedom for all. Our history is replete with the stories of men and women who rose to become heroes for liberty, equality, and justice. Today we celebrate the life and legacy of one such man: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It should seem absurd that in 2018 we would need to explain why all men and women should be treated equally. It should be second-nature to us now, and yet it was not long ago that MLK had to do just that. It’s tempting for some to write off inequality, particularly racial inequality, as ancient history. But many uncommon heroes who marched in Selma, faced down police brutality, and sat at lunch counters despite abuse continue their activism today for good reason. Dr. King and many others bravely faced violence, and even death, to call on their country to live up to the standards set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Today we remember his courage, zeal and sacrifice. We honor him by recognizing that achieving and maintaining equality is of the highest moral imperative and must be a never-ending quest.
Sadly, the principles for which King and others fought are still under assault today. Peddlers of hatred and division seek to undermine racial equality and pit Americans against Americans. One need only look at the disgraceful white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville last year to see the violence and hatred that some still wish to instill in our great nation. On this MLK Day, let us all redouble our commitment to liberty, justice, and equality.
Those who would drive a wedge between us — who attack others on racial, gender, or religious lines — they would create a weaker America. For some, that is precisely the point; to make profit or seize power through division and conflict. Instead, we must seek strength through unity. Dr. King showed us all that a united America will always be stronger than a divided one. He opened the nation’s eyes to a basic truth: for America to be just, all Americans must be free; and if America is truly free, it will intrinsically be just.
Please join us today in remembering and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not only for his efforts to promote equality, but for his enduring legacy which has called so many Americans to action, and thus so greatly improved our country.