Mayor’s Message: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

When we celebrate this holiday, we are celebrating the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to our nation

“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.”

                                                                                              Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Next week we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and honor the memory of this civil rights pioneer who dared to dream. As we observe Martin Luther King Day, let us remember Dr. King’s vision for equality, dignity and respect to all human beings.

Dr. King followed the non-violent protest philosophies of Gandhi and constantly reminded his followers that their fight for equality would be victorious if they did not resort to bloodshed.  Between 1957 and 1968, Dr. King traveled over six million miles and gave over 2500 speeches, while writing five books in support of civil rights and equality for all Americans.

On Aug. 23, 1963, more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. where Dr. King led a peaceful march to the Capitol Building to support the passing of laws that guaranteed every American equal civil rights.  It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that Dr. King delivered his legendary speech later entitled, “I Have a Dream.”

During his crusade, Dr. King was awarded five honorary degrees and named “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine in 1963.  At the age of 35, he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and donated his prize money of $54,123 to the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. skipped two grades in high school, 9th and 11th, and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15 in 1944. By 19, he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.

Today, over 700 streets in the Unites States are named after Martin Luther King Jr. There is one such street in almost every major city. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are the only other Americans to have had their birthdays observed as a national holiday (now combined as President’s Day).

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, this man of peace was violently assassinated.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.  I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…”

When we celebrate this holiday, we are celebrating the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to our nation. We honor the values he exemplified and remember his teachings of courage, truth, respect, integrity, humility and service.