I first celebrated our national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Elmira, New York in 1988. At the time, I did not realize it was only the third official time Americans collectively paid tribute to the slain civil rights leader.
I debated at length whether or not to write a post about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for my blog this year. My Irish birth and relocation to America after the significant events of his life, made me feel unworthy to pass comment. Truthfully, my simple knowledge of his formidable legacy intimidated me.
As I mulled over the significance of this holiday, I realized I have a duty to my four American children, to know the lessons Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continues to teach us. I must learn to verbalize why I admire Dr. King, to help them understand the importance of commemorating his achievements.
His commitment to unconditional truth and equality, and his trust in the power of unarmed protest to challenge the status quo, make him a leader I want my children to fully appreciate. I look forward to a journey of learning together, as they progress through their American schooling over the coming years.
Dr. King was instrumental in promoting change to create the America I proudly call home.
I do not consider America perfect, a fact Dr. King fully understood. I make this statement aware of the challenges our nation faces. The American Revolution occurred over 200 years ago. America’s evolution continues to this day. As a new American I am proud to be a part of this evolution, because of Dr. King’s courage.
As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life we must not merely look back. His lessons apply to our future, as much as they ever did to the past.
So rather than study quotations from his most famous orations, I decided to read Dr. King’s last sermon delivered on Sunday, March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. I wished to gain insight into his next planned endeavor, The Poor People’s Campaign. His sermon, entitled “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution“, caused me to wake up and listen to his important words on poverty.
“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now
have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The
real question is whether we have the will.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nearly forty-four years after this speech poverty continues to plague America and the world. His legacy demands we confront poverty with a will to overcome it.
And so I ask myself do I have the will to help work against poverty?
Do I accept Dr. King’s challenge to “help bridge the gulf between
the haves and the have-nots?”
I may not be able to recite large portions of Dr. King’s speeches from memory, but this weekend I celebrate his life by deepening my understanding of his message. I hope someday to take my children to visit the newly erected statue in his honor.
Yet I know this is not enough.
His enduring lesson for my children is accepting our collective obligation to end poverty in the world. I pray we, as Americans, can work together to achieve his goal in my children’s lifetime, but preferably in mine.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom