Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, we honor and pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the leader in the American Civil Rights Movement and a proponent of nonviolent civil disobedience.

Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address dedicated a portion of the battlefield as the final resting place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. He said, It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

As we gather on the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and the transformative “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am pressed to ask myself how can we pay tribute to such a man and the thousands who risked their very lives to stand with him.   

In his speech Dr. King acknowledged that 100 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Black men and women were not free and the promise of our nation was not a reality for people of color in our nation.

My faith demands that I acknowledge that 50 years later we still do not live in a nation where freedom and justice are provided for all.  We live in a country where justice is not blind, and the poor and people of color do not receive the same justice as the wealthy and the white. 

We live in a state where there is great disparity and inequity, and where the economic systems, both private and public, are twisted in ways that benefit the affluent and keep many of our citizens trapped in poverty and hopelessness. 

We live in communities where violence, crime, and mass incarceration are the result of our failure to provide education, opportunity, and a sense of hope for the all our citizens. We still act like some of our citizens do not matter. 

At the core of Dr. King’s speech was a sense of urgency.  He spoke for those who were tired of being told to wait for freedom and justice, when entire generations of their families lived under oppression. The March on Washington signaled a moment when a people said “now is the time.”  It was a critically important moment in a process which led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Has our country made progress in providing freedom and justice for all our citizens?  Surely, we have.  But perhaps the greatest danger we face as we celebrate the anniversary of this historic speech, is to believe we have arrived.  In many respects we have only begun the journey toward justice. 

Fifty years ago a movement for freedom and justice was launched.  Our task is to pick up the torch in our generation and continue the march toward justice for all people.  This is the only meaningful way to honor Dr. King’s legacy and to pay tribute to his memory.  I believe we can and we must do better.  Now is the time!
I shared these remarks at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the 1963 March on Washington and the I Have a Dream! speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. held today at the Missouri State Capitol.  A slightly longer version was also published on Churchnet's Word&Way page this week.

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