Now that I have that out of the way, I wish to
explain why I have such deep respect for Dr. King and for the legacy
that he left for all Americans to follow.
What I admire the most of
Dr. King, and to the same extent John F. Kennedy and Robert F.
Kennedy, is that they were not
perfect. They sinned. They were just like any of us. What I find
inspiring is that they all overcame some form of moral shortcomings
in a fashion that would be almost impossible to do today with our
24-hour news cycle. Dr. King's personal failings, which
were many, did not interfere with him bearing the burden of duty. Like most people, I find great inspiration in the eloquent prose
that he gave us, but I find the most solace in the fact that, like me,
he stumbled and failed and against daunting odds, eventually became
successful in his endeavors. To me, that is the greatest legacy
that Dr. King — as well as the Kennedy brothers — left to us.
As we follow the long arc of history, we are
finding out more and more about the personal life of Dr. King.
Through books and court documents, we have learned that J. Edgar
Hoover and the FBI had secretly bugged the home and hotel rooms of
Dr. King and had found that Dr. King liked to have sex with women
who were not his wife. We have also learned that it is probable
that Dr. King plagiarized a portion of his doctoral thesis. While
I am not condoning this type of behavior, it does go to show that
even our most revered citizens are in fact mortal. This sinner,
adulterer and plagiarist had shown poor judgment in his personal
life, but it never diminished his ability to keep marching toward
equality. His very private failings did not stifle his very public
accomplishments. Even with the FBI sending anonymous letters
threatening to expose their evidence to the national media, and in
the same letter suggesting that he kill himself to avoid national
embarrassment and to protect the civil rights movement, Dr. King
would march on.
When I think about what I want to do in life, I
often think of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy Jr. and how they were
both committed to ending poverty. I am inspired by Robert Kennedy Jr., a member of American royalty, going into ghettos and Appalachia
so that he might better understand the hardships that millions of
people faced. I am equally inspired by the fact that Dr. King
walked into those same ghettos and run-down mountain shacks and came
out even more determined to do right, no matter what it would cost. These two flawed but privileged men would do more in three years to
combat extreme poverty than any two people before or since. These
imperfect men stood up against raging fire hoses and vicious police
dogs and would march on Washington, and one would light an eternal
flame for his fallen brother. They would rise above their destructive
personal behavior and prove that personal redemption is possible.
[to top of second column]
Both Dr. King and RFK did what they did, not so
that they would be remembered, but because it
was the right course of action to take. Both of these men knew that
America was not living up to the promise of our Constitution and
that urgent action was required. What else can we possibly ask
fellow citizens than that? To speak up at the sight of injustice is
paramount. To speak up and demand action that the poor not be
forgotten is not socialism, but it is the moral duty of our time. To
stand back out of apathy is to do more of a disservice to the memory
of Dr. King than almost anything that we can do.
What propelled Dr.
King down his path of righteousness is within each and every
American. We all have the ability to change the lives of our
friends and neighbors for the good if we could only get past our own
personal failings. If we can get past those failings and understand
that we all fall short at times and that our personal failings do not
define us, then we will have honored the legacies of Dr. King and RFK.
When asked how he wanted to be
remembered after his death, Dr. King said: "I'd like somebody to
mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life
serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin
Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day
that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able
to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be
able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who
were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life
to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I
tried to love and serve humanity. Yes, if you want to say that
I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say
that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for
righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."
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