“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As the new year begins, we are asked to reflect on our past and make resolutions for the future. Martin Luther King Day is an opportunity to make that same reflection on a grander scale.
Martin Luther King, Jr. started as a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama before taking a public stand for civil rights. He believed that we can accomplish civil equality through nonviolent means, regardless of our background.
On December 21, 1956, Dr. King lead a 382-day long bus boycott that resulted in the Supreme Court declaring the segregation on buses unconstitutional. From 1957 to 1968 he was active in the civil rights movement, speaking, making appearances, leading protests and writing five books and several articles. Most notably there was the protest in Birmingham, Alabama that caught the attention of the nation, the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech delivered to over 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial Washington, D.C. in 1963, and the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 that culminated in the Voting Rights Act.
Dr. King endured arrests, assaults, the bombing of his home and continuous harassment but in the end, he persevered. Soon, people began to recognize him for the man he was and the work that he had achieved. Not only was he awarded five honorary degrees, butTime magazine named him man of the year in 1963. In 1964, he was the youngest man (at the time) to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and donated his prize money to the civil rights movement. Unfortunately, his life came to a tragic end on the evening of April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
Despite the devastation that followed his death, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is now a world figure and his words will be echoed through the ages. As he so eloquently put it in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
This sentiment is as true today as it was in 1964. We have made progress since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. but we still have a long way to go. Dr. Martin Luther King strove to promote acceptance and inclusion, encourage peaceful dialogue and foster connections between people of different backgrounds–all important objectives that we remember and continue to work towards on this Martin Luther King Day.
We look forward to a new year reflecting on the past and striving for the world where peace and brotherhood can become a reality.