Monday the U.S. observed the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
Government offices, banks and some businesses closed their doors for business as the day King was born was remembered. It would have been his 80th birthday.
The day of King’s birth has been celebrated in this country since I was senior in high school, and two years after the rock band U2 made the day of King’s assassination — April 4 — immortal in their song “Pride (In the Name of Love).” I find it hard to remember when King’s birthday was not remembered.
I often wonder what King would think of the state of the country today.
From what I know and have studied about him, I think King would be both heartened and disheartened at the state of relations between people of all races, religious backgrounds and social standing.
King was a civil rights leader, not just for the cause of equality among different races, but for equality for all people no matter what differences separate them. By the time he was assassinated, he was largely working to end poverty and the Vietnam war.
King would be elated to see how far we, as a people, have come. To see children of all races playing together and not seeing differences based on race would have been a sight I believe he would have liked to have witnessed.
But, the very thing that is one of the biggest strengths of Americans, our diversity, is the one thing that is possibly our biggest weakness — and the thing driving the biggest wedge between people. This would have disheartened King.
He would have cringed at the thought some of the people he surrounded himself with have gone on to propagate division among all Americans. He paid the ultimate price to bring people together and those who walked with him and listened to him speak have turned their back on what he stood for, causing divisiveness at every turn.
King’s famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act one year later.
To let the so-called leaders of today’s civil rights movement use King’s name to promote their own political or social agenda is something King would rise against — both physically and spiritually.
We should remember the man for who he was, and what he did. He was a man, like so many other great leaders, cut down before his time. Cut down because some did not like the truth in his words. Cut down because they couldn’t twist what was happening to serve their own desires.
I hope all people everywhere will discover the true lessons King tried to teach, and not listen to the distortions of the politicians of today as they seek to use King to provoke an emotional response.
Blake Ovard is the managing editor for the Star Group Newspapers and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.