|On this beautiful, cold Sunday morning, I have just finished re-reading Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," one of the seminal documents in our country's history of civil rights. As I contemplate King's life and legacy, I am struck again by his intelligence, eloquence and humanity as well as the courage, leadership and sacrifice that he and so many others brought to the struggle for dignity and equal rights.
MLK Day provides each of us an opportunity to reflect on the way we live our lives, our values and the ways we contribute to and celebrate our humanity. The following passages from King's letter, written fifty-five years ago, provide a lens through which to consider our own individual and collective commitments to civil rights and the dignity of all people.
"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."
"....go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with underlying causes."
"...help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."
"The great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is...the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice..."
"Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all the tensions it creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."
"We will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."
"Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity."
"One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for the best of the American dream and the most sacred of values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to the great wells of democracy..."
"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all of their scintillating beauty."