Of course I didn’t know the man. To be honest, my knowledge of his life is not extensive. I know the things most people know; I’ve read several of his speeches and watched a few documentaries. I’ve collected a number of children’s books about him and his life’s work. No, I don’t know for sure that what I’m about to say is exactly right. But I think it is…
“No, no, no. It’s not about me, you see. It’s about all who have given. It’s about all who have suffered. It’s about all who have paid the price and, against all hope, have laid down their lives for the sake of others. Do not focus today on a man, but let your hearts be spurred on by the memories of the multitude who have laid aside differences to make our world a better place for each and every one of us.”
“Think today of the slaves and the abolitionists who sang songs of freedom together and prayed for a day to come. Surely they had a dream, just as you and I have a dream. Think today on the Quaker friends who risked their lives to find a way through the wilderness for their black brothers and sisters to go free, for when I came to the mountain top to look over into the promised land, I stood in the footsteps of those who had seen a glimpse long before my time had come. Sing today the praises of Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Fred Shuttleworth who played their part without glory or recognition. Give honor to every man, woman, and child who has lifted his or her voice up and boldly declared, ‘We shall be one!'”
“Today, my friends, is not about one man. Today is a day for us all. For whatever affects one of us directly, affects all of us indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.* We could not have come to this place without each other. We cannot go where we must go without each other. This is a day for us all.”
“So do not let today be a celebration of one man, alone. Let today be a day of celebration that, as a people, we are not where we once were. Let today be a day of reflection as we pause to consider things that we could do differently. Let today be a day of repentance as we acknowledge those things that have kept us from having love in our hearts for all of our brethren. Let today be a day of action so our children know a world that is still better than the one in which we live. Let today be OUR day.”
As I said… I don’t know the man, but I have seen the content of his character. He lent his voice to the people, but he knew he was not speaking for himself, alone. He knew he was only a vessel. I honor him today by honoring those for whom he served. I honor him today by honoring the God to whom he served. I thank God that the work of Martin Luther King goes on today… not because it was his work, but because it IS God’s work.
*Direct quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
(See also our Celebration Post called Excerpts from Paul’s Letter to American Christians, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. )