There seem to be only four words from the famous King speech that people remember today.
Because issues of racism are no longer strongly persistent, the words, messages, and life of Dr. King seem to be slowly slipping from public attention.
In politics, community events, media and business, the holiday remains important, but you won’t hear a word uttered about Dr. King during a friendly conversation.
In fact, every year, I typically hear just one repetitive message in reference to the upcoming federal holiday: Why don’t I get the day off work/school?
For those who do have the day off, time is spent catching up on homework or taking a mini-vacation.
Even if racism is no longer a dire issue, the holiday, and the memory of King, should still be important.
Almost everyone knows that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a clergyman, activist and iconic figure in the African American civil rights movement.
Most know that he was assassinated in April 1968 by James Earl Ray.
However, not many know that in 1964 he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ending racial segregation and discrimination.
Or that his house was bombed and he was arrested after leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 385 days after Rosa Park’s famous refusal. According to the MLK Jr. National Historic Site, King was arrested 30 times for his nonviolent activism.
Many don’t know that King visited the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, one of his major influences, in 1959.
Or that he excelled past ninth and twelfth grade and entered into a university at age 15 without formally completing high school. He received a doctorate degree in philosophy at age 26.
King’s focus went beyond anti-racism efforts. Near the time of his death, he worked to end poverty and stop the Vietnam War.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his famous “dream” speech before 250,000 to 400,000 people, assisted the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the end of Jim Crow laws in the South.
For those who haven’t seen King’s speech, or those who want an inspirational reminder, watch it here.
Forty-seven years after King announced his epic dream in front of the Lincoln memorial, most of what he hoped for has been established.
That doesn’t mean, however, that his work is done. As long as King’s words are remembered, he can continue to make a positive difference.
His peace-promoting tactics should be remembered and applied in many contemporary topics.
He took advantage of his freedom of speech and went to extreme lengths in doing what he knew was right, even though a large portion of his own county despised him for it.
Rather than be angry at your desk or pleased with the 24-hour vacation, take time –even if it’s for only five minutes– to remember Dr. King’s struggle and accomplishments.