It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! MLK was an incredible public speaker. He had a profound influence on his community, his state, and his country. In my opinion, history textbooks don’t portray the essence of his message or his understanding of the innate rights God has granted to humankind. King rose up and spoke against cruelty and injustice committed against Black Americans. He believed in acting out of love, and he believed that meant never backing down when an innocent citizen’s rights or freedoms were withheld or taken away.
I’ve lived in southern states all of my life. King’s image in my formative years was that of a passionate man of hero status. Growing up, I thought everyone had the freedoms King fought for. I assumed everyone understood it is wrong to treat any man, woman, or child—created in God’s image!—as inferior to another man, woman, or child. Now I know that devaluing one innocent human life is the devaluing all of mankind as a worthless, disposable mass. King explained this within the context of society in a country: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We are all “tied in a single garment of destiny.”
MLK wasn’t a perfect man, but he didn’t let his mistakes stop him from using his influence for good. His Letter from Birmingham Jail is a chock-full example of his heart, his bravery, and his compassion. There was so much he’d seen and experienced in his life to make him bitter and angry, but he committed to acting morally in the face of injustice. His words inspired hope in his listeners, and they continue to inspire hope. It begs the question: If moral leaders inspire hope, what do immoral leaders inspire?