Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. How is the black civil rights leader who was born in 1929 and assassinated in 1968 relevant to Grant County in 2003?
I cannot pretend to speak for the Rev. King's legacy, but my personal impressions of the example he set may offer food for thought. Passages are gleaned from "King, Martin Luther, Jr.," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2002 (http://encarta.msn.com).
Practice nonviolence - "Throughout his education, King was exposed to influences that related Christian theology to the struggles of oppressed peoples. ... In 1959 King visited India and worked out more clearly his understanding of Gandhi's principle of nonviolent persuasion, called satyagraha, which King had determined to use as his main instrument of social protest."
Do not operate in a vacuum - "King's challenges to segregation and racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s helped convince many white Americans to support the cause of civil rights in the United States. ... King made strategic alliances with Northern whites that later bolstered his success at influencing public opinion in the United States."
Pick your battles - "During the demonstrations (in Birmingham, Ala.,) King was arrested and sent to jail. He wrote a letter from his jail cell to local clergymen who had criticized him for creating disorder in the city. His 'Letter from Birmingham Jail,' which argued that individuals had the moral right and responsibility to disobey unjust laws, was widely read at the time and added to King's standing as a moral leader."
Stick to a moral compass - "On August 28, 1963, King delivered a stirring address to an audience of more than 200,000 civil rights supporters. His 'I Have a Dream' speech expressed the hopes of the civil rights movement in oratory as moving as any in American history: 'I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' ... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.'"
Show compassion for others even when you have an advantage in numbers or influence - This is a lesson that America learned. It's tempting to silence those with whom we disagree. However, this kind of intimidation does not represent the interests of the vast majority of citizens who believe they can win an argument on its merits. King looked for compassion even amid intimidation: "King's serious demeanor and consistent appeal to Christian brotherhood and American idealism made a positive impression on whites outside the South."
Acknowledge greatness -"King's historical importance was memorialized at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a research institute in Atlanta where his tomb is located. The King Center is located at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which includes King's birthplace and the Ebenezer Church. Perhaps the most important memorial is the national holiday in King's honor, designated by the Congress of the United States in 1983 and observed on the third Monday in January, a day that falls on or near King's birthday of Jan. 15."
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