Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be remembered by people of all ages and all races for a number of different reasons, most notably as a Civil Rights leader during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history.
He will be remembered to for the way he inspired people and incited them into action. Like most leaders, King was straight forward and often told people what they didn’t want to hear.
And, like most leaders he had his enemies.
But the thing we believe that people, particularly our young, should remember and emulate about King is his vision and his determination to work toward that vision at every turn.
King could see a tomorrow far different than the today of his time. More than that, he could feel it in his bones, knew it could happen and worked just as hard as he could toward that vision, trying to get others, without the ability to see the future, to understand that his was not just a dream it was a reality that could, and would, happen … if people would only see it and then try to live it.
He never got to see his dream realized, but we are sure King knew, even in his short life, that what he envisioned for America, for people of every race, was on the horizon.
While we aren’t free of prejudice today — whether it’s dealing with race, gender, economic status or any number of other issues — we aren’t a people, generally speaking, that looks at color first, and we aren’t a people any longer that believes that any one race is superior to another.
King believed those things could happen; he prayed for that dream; he worked for that dream; and he died for that dream.
People today need to have that kind of vision, not just about race relations but about every aspect of their lives.
We need to see beyond our own houses and streets into a future that can pull people together and have them working toward a common goal.
People need to look through the trees to find the forest, and they need to believe they can.
Too often, today, we are all so caught up in what we want, what we can get and how we can get it, that we forget the far larger and more productive view — the one Dr. King saw. The same one we should see.
King’s dream is far closer to reality today than it’s ever been, but we still aren’t there yet. He knew we wouldn’t be. He knew we’d stumble, he knew we would fall back on selfish ways and old tendencies. He knew what we won’t always accept — that it’s far easier to fall back on old habits than develop new ones.
King understood that no matter our race, we would rather live in the past — where pain and prejudice reigned — than deal with the present or work to better the future. Yet his call for us was, hand-in-hand, to put the past where it belonged and work together to build a better tomorrow for everyone.
With his vision instilled in all of us, we can continue to work for what he died trying to get others to see: An America where people worked together to make life better for everyone; an America where we accept each other and work to make one another better, teaching each other and loving one another; an America where right can and will prevail over the darker forces that try to stop us all.
To do that, we must have a vision for our country and our community, and we must be able to see it, believe it and work toward it.
That’s what Dr. King did every day of his life.
And, if there’s one thing we will remember Monday, as we celebrate the life and the vision of such a remarkable man, it should be that he saw, he believed and he worked, with all his might and with all his heart, to make others believe too.
Too often people let others shatter their vision, crush their dreams and influence whether or not it can be fulfilled.
King did not. We shouldn’t either. Not now, not ever.