What would he say to us today?

Martin Luther King, Jr. image courtesy of photobucket.com

Every year for the past several years, I have read the transcript of Dr. King’s I have a Dream speech and wondered what he would have thought of our progress as a nation if he were still alive today.

The latter portion of the speech which begins:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

has always been particularly moving to me. But this year, another portion of his speech really caught my attention:

“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”–I think we have failed miserably in this area. The public discourse has become embarrassing. We’re more concerned about being right than being civil to one another. “Do to others as you would have them do to you”, has been replaced with “Do to others before they do it to you.”

So, how can we honor the memory of Dr. King?

How do we keep his hope alive? How do we rekindle the faith he spoke of? This faith which makes it possible to be “able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope?” . This faith which allows us to “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood?” A faith to “work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day?”

I think most of us would agree what doesn’t work.

What doesn’t work is putting personal and political agendas before the truth.

What doesn’t work is vilifying and demeaning those who don’t agree with us.

What doesn’t work is thinking we can ever retain our own dignity while simultaneously attempting to strip someone else of their own.

What doesn’t work is waiting around for someone else to exhibit dignity and discipline before we follow suit. It starts with each of us, as individuals. In our homes, in our friendships and business relationships, in our churches, in our neighborhoods and in our public discourse. It starts with me.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~ Philippians 2: 3-4

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