“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an American holiday marking the birthday of the great man who fought for civil rights for blacks. It is observed every year around his birthday, January 15. Also called MKL Day or King Day, it has been an officially declared holiday in all American countries since 2000. On the eve of this holiday, let us remember this great leader who remains an inspiration even after five decades since his death.
MLK was a prominent leader in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination. King was devoted to Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. As a theology student, King described Gandhi as being “one of the individuals who greatly reveal the working of the Spirit of God”.
“If it was a train ride that created Gandhi, it was a bus journey that made Martin Luther King.”
In his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, he stated that he just wanted to do God’s will. Veteran and fellow activist Bayard Rustin was King’s first advisor on nonviolence. Both Gandhi and King had read Tolstoy and were strongly inspired by his work.
In 1995, King formed a small group of civil rights advocates to contest racial segregation on the city’s public bus system following the famous incident of Rosa Park’s arrest, who had refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in the bus. In his first speech to the group as its president, King declared:
We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience. We have sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from that patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice.
King lectured in all parts of the country and discussed racial discrimination with civil right leaders at home and abroad. He organised the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which proved to be a national platform for him to speak.
King was handsome, eloquent and doggedly determined, always catching the attention of the news media. He wrote many books, the most influential of them being Stride Toward Freedom, The Measure of a Man and Strength to Love. He was famous for not just these thought inspiring works, but also the powerful speeches that he made, I Have a Dream, still being recalled as one of the most motivating speeches of all time.
King was the youngest recipient in his time of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in the U.S.
“Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free.”
Martin Luther King’s notions of a free country and his beliefs of non-violence inspired every generation that superseded him. Although even today we see a few terror events taking place around the world that oppose the ideals and the dreams that our leaders of past had hoped for. There have been terror killings and shootings taking place during the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We all need to realize once more the greatness of this man’s fight and the beliefs that still unite the blacks of not only America but every nation, even today.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
- Saurabh Bhattacharya, Life positive Plus magazine, Oct-Dec 2002