“Martin Luther King, they say, followed friendship every day. He only wanted you and me to live together peacefully.”
— Recited by Candy Chase’s pre-Kindergarten classes at DeSales Catholic School
• • •
This past Monday, we recognized Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is incredible to think that 2023 will mark the 60th year since Dr. King’s iconic speech “I Have a Dream”. This speech has been read, re-enacted and recited around the world, especially during services and celebrations on the MLK federal holiday. Although it is only six minutes long, it is referenced as one of the greatest speeches of all time. If you have not encountered it recently, I encourage you to find a copy online and read or listen to it. I did, and was amazed by how relevant some of King’s most poetic and passionate points still are 60 years later.
This year, I am strongly reminded that Martin Luther King Jr. was a “peace preacher” and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. When it seems that people are angrier than ever, I am hopeful, and prayerful, that the voices of those calling for non-violence and for peace will again rise in prominence.
Here is an excerpt from King’s “dream” speech, delivered Aug. 28, 1963, that I found especially poignant:
“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. and those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content, will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to ‘business as usual’. and there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
So much of King’s non-violent approach was in line with Biblical teaching.
“Never repay evil for evil to anyone…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” — Romans 12:17, 21
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God… But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” — James 1:19-20, 22
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” — Matthew 5:9
I realize that we as a nation have not yet fully achieved the ideals of “liberty and justice for all” but I thank God that we are on our way. Every one of us can have a part in making the dream of the peace preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a reality.