Before throngs of onlookers and listeners who would hang on every single word he uttered, Martin Luther King spoke passionately about his travels to the mountaintop, his eyes having seen glory and a dream he knew would be tough to achieve, but nonetheless achievable.
Through it all, King’s message of nonviolence, love, peace and unity remains as vital today as it was during the height of the civil rights era.
During Ohio’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration in Columbus, the state’s Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor urged everyone to continue to speak out against racism and hate.
“Although much has changed during the past 50 years, Dr. King’s lessons are timeless,” Taylor said as she delivered the keynote address for the commemoration. “His unwavering commitment to nonviolence, justice and dignity for everyone is the legacy that Dr. King created and it is vital that we keep it alive,” she said. “His legacy will always be a reminder that we must stand together and speak out against racism and hatred.”
Kyle McMahon, a youth ambassador for the United Nations and one of the influences for President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, said there’s little doubt that King’s message remains vital.
“Martin Luther King’s message of nonviolence is as vital today as it’s ever been,” McMahon said. “Today, more than ever, we need his message of hope and unity. While we as a country have come a long way in many aspects, we still have a long way to go.”
Jennifer Desiree Egbon, a 27-year-old freelance writer from Chicago who attended Oberlin College, said King’s legacy has given many social activists the inspiration to continue fighting against the injustices in their communities.
“At Oberlin, the spirit of being social responsible was very apparent to me,” Egbon said. “Coming from a college that was the first in the country to admit blacks and women in the 19th century, I’ve personally been very inspired by King’s life legacy. I can see that if he hadn’t decided to be a leader in the civil rights movement, many influential white politicians in Washington would not have fought for the rights of blacks in the 1960s. Martin Luther King was not just an activist, he preached for an all-inclusive society because he saw that America could be a better place for more people.”
King saw that the discrimination that blacks and minorities faced was not just unfair, it was unconstitutional. His message of peace and nonviolence resonates today because we live in a country that is divided by political ideologies that endanger the very tenets of American democracy, Egbon said.
“If he were here today, King would probably say that now more than ever we must unite and condemn anything that makes us forget that we all part of humankind,” she said. “He would say that it is up to all of us to fight for the rights of those that can’t fight back or are silenced when they try to speak.”
Author Linda F. Williams concurred.
“The attempt at legislating as a means of realizing the dream is now, and will forever be hindered by the truth that you cannot legislate a man’s heart,” Williams said. “That is a matter of personal responsibility on each of our parts. As long as we are human this remains vital.”
Egbon said King would want for all Americans to know that they’re human beings who deserve the basic human right to live and prosper.
“Without the threat of violence or persecution simply for being a particular race. King’s point of view that we are all brothers and sisters who must demand equal rights for all is one that most Americans would agree with today,” she said. “I think it’s important that we remember leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. so that we don’t forget that it can take one individual to lead a revolution if the times call for it.”