The Times West Virginian

January 19, 2014

King’s mission of building a better America must continue

Times West Virginian

— Freedom and equality for all, with a commitment to make the world a better place.

That’s what we remember about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as Monday’s annual holiday in honor of the civil rights leader approaches.

Working to ensure a better life for blacks, who suffered terribly for so many years in parts of this country, indeed was at the heart of King’s journey, but his legacy is so much more.

As Peniel E. Joseph, a contributing editor at The Root and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and a history professor at Tufts University, wrote in Newsday, “King’s powerful rage against economic exploitation and war is often overlooked when we think of him as only a race-healer. King’s well-remembered adherence to nonviolence often obscures his use of other tactics. He vowed to never use violence, and he kept this promise, but King sought to bend the will of the American people on behalf of the dispossessed (including, but not limited to, African-Americans) and used speeches, demonstrations, time spent in jail and camp-ins to achieve his goals.”

King, in fact, was assassinated on April 4, 1968, amid a campaign to rally sanitation workers on strike in Memphis, Tenn.

King’s words were powerful, none more so than in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

Here is a portion of that speech he delivered during the March on Washington:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

“I have a dream today.

“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

“I have a dream today.”

He concluded with an emphasis on freedom.

“... When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

We appreciate the numerous area observances of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, their remembrances of the man and the focus of continuing his dream of offering help to others.

Rev. King’s life ended far too soon nearly 46 years ago, but his mission of building a better America must never die.