Have you ever sat in a public space and found yourself teary eyed given the emotional gravity of what you were witnessing?
On January 15th 2015 I took my 11th grade American History students to see Selma, a recent blockbuster film that analyzes Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 campaign for voter’s rights in Selma, Alabama.
Martin Luther King Jr. was not a perfect man. His infidelity to Coretta Scott King and his hesitancy to place himself in positions of peril prior to his stand at Selma, paint the portrait of a hero who is also human.[i] A fact that should not sadden us but emboldens us as we all wrestle with the demons that make our personal aspirations of perfection elusive.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who stood up and spoke out. Yes he had the comforts of a good life, the support of important and talented people, and arrived at history’s doorstep at an opportune moment. Nevertheless, he seized all of that and rose to prominence.
How often do we find ourselves imminently prepared for the moment before us yet we shirk our opportunity to rise above?
As I felt an urge to cry during the moments when Dr. King eloquently challenged all of us to be part of the solution to injustice, I wondered how I have fallen short of using my talents to make society a more equitable, just, and vibrant space for all Americans.
I now realize that I have been posing the wrong question to my students when I ask if Martin Luther King Jr. would approve of the modern day state of affairs. Instead, I should have asked, and indeed am now asking, what small contribution do you possess that if shared helps our nation progress toward Dr. King’s dream.
As we celebrate Dr. King, let us do so by finding a sense of personal contentment and by embracing the words of President Theodore Roosevelt,
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
(Bridgeport, Conn. (photographed 2010)
“When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.” The text on this brightly colored mural is from King’s 1968 book Where Do We Go From Here. In this passage of the book, King appeals to “white liberals” to rally to the cause of civil rights rather than observe the movement in “indifference.”) [ii]
Want more? Check out my MLK blog post from 2014. Click here
Featured image: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/martin-luther-king-jr-by-mural-12207/
(Painted by an unknown artist, the mural features an iconic image of King. With the pillars of the Lincoln Memorial in the background and his hand outstretched to an implied audience, King is poised as he delivers his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.)