Today we celebrate the life and good works of Martin Luther King, born in 1929 and assassinated in 1968. He was a clergyman, civil rights activist and left us with a most memorable speech entitled “I Have a Dream”. Had he lived , he would have seen his dream come to fruition.
It is hard for most of us to identify with a society that segregated its students, denied rights, or refused service to anyone solely on the basis of race. Yet it wasn’t that long ago. We have come far and today we pay homage to one of the leaders who championed this effort.
I believe that he knew he would not live a long life. Other civil rights leaders had been struck down; John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcom X. Rev. King once said, “A man who isn’t willing to die for something, isn’t fit to live.” He must have known that the ultimate sacrifice would be asked of him in the name of equal rights and was willing to give it for a cause greater than his own life.
Today I am asking myself what I am willing to die for; what is my truth and deep seated belief for which I would rather lay down my life than lay aside my truth?
One moment that I experienced this year comes to me rather quickly. I was in Paris, France amid travel warnings of possible terrorist attacks and security was at high alert. Standing at the turnstile at Gare St. Lazare, metro ticket in hand, there was a moment when it occurred to me that if I entered the underbelly of the station and such a threat was carried out, that I would most likely perish from being beneath rubble even if I survived the blast. People, mostly French people, rushed past me, undaunted. I realized in that moment that I was willing to die to defeat terrorism; that I couldn’t live with myself if I buckled under and retreated to my hotel room or called a cab. So I fed my pass into the ticket reader and joined the mass beneath the bustling city. It was then that I saw the others were not as unphased by the threats as I had assumed. Especially once we boarded the train. Every bump, jerk, sudden noise, had a reaction. It was subtle, but it was there. They were all voicing their refusal to have their rights revoked by fear of a terrorist plot.
While many of us see this day as just another Federal Holiday, I hope we will all spend a few moments remembering the man whose dream has been realized and in a peaceful, nonviolent manner. And ask yourself a question today. What are you willing to die for?
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