2 minutes and 38 seconds of the last speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The very next day, he was assasinated.
Many banks and schools are closed today. In my neighborhood at least, there’s no trash service today. The U.S. postal service is closed. Many companies are closed. There are recognition and memorial services happening in churches, town halls, and government agencies across the country.
The only other single individual who receives this type of honor and recognition in our country is our first President, George Washington. No one else has their own holiday or inspired an entire nation in the same way as Dr. King. All five of my children, from second grade to eleventh grade, learned something about Dr. King or the civil rights movement within the last week. Their knowledge varies by what is appropriate for their age group, but nonetheless, each of them can tell me a variety of facts about Dr. King’s life and work.
Because we must never forget. Our nation’s history isn’t all guts and glory. There are parts that are dark; parts we wish had never happened; parts that many would love to erase from the history books. The necessity of the civil rights movement in our country is shameful. Our history of slavery is shameful. But because of those who were so courageous, our present is writing a better story. Have we arrived? No. There is still much work to be done. In the historical timeline, we are not very far removed from the 1960’s. The generations that lived through the Civil Rights movement are still very much alive – they are still passing down their experiences and views to the next generations. And we who lived through that time period bear the responsibility of passing on truth and change to our children. We have learned some hard lessons from the past – but we must continue to do so. While tremendous strides have been made within our society, our culture, our laws and our own prejudices, there is still plenty of work to do. This is why we must never forget. In the present, we are creating the framework that our children will build upon when we are gone. It is imperative that our framework be built on the ideals that Dr. King eloquently described: justice, equality, integrity and freedom.
Today is a day for honoring, for reflecting, for using the challenges of our history to redefine our future. So here’s to a man who redefined a generation and continues to inspire each and every generation that has come since.