Today we as a nation pause to celebrate a holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As we reflect on the man, the leader, and the civil rights icon, I think it is equally essential that we measure what we have learned since his death more than 52 years ago.
Suppose we were to judge ourselves by recent events in Washington, D.C.? In that case, we may see America blindly repeating the past mistakes as we continue to splinter over political affiliations that are deeply rooted in persistent racial and philosophical divides. It has been sobering to see the events like the Capitol riots play out and equally so to see the response, or lack of response, to what has happened. If there is any message to be taken from where we stand today, we must all be willing to take responsibility for being a part of a change for the better in this nation.
If our grand experiment of being a democracy is to survive, Dr. King’s words on equality and justice must become far more than etchings on marble or quotes shared via social media. His words must sear into our souls and provide for deep self-reflection and acknowledgment that we yet have a long way to go.
Celebrating Dr. King’s legacy should mean finding more ways to bring hope and healing to the masses. It should mean identifying what human dignity looks like and pushing it forward. It should mean boldly pursuing truth and justice, dignity, and service.
As a historically black college and university, those requirements carry an urgency of not just seeking to do good but also in seeking to steady the very ground upon which we stand. We, at Fort Valley State University, don’t have the luxury to be disconnected and be unaffected by what is occurring in this country. We are required to use our gifts, talents, and the opportunities that have been provided to make this world a better place for the less fortunate, for those who are voiceless, and for those who will come after us.
As Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
On today, in Dr. King’s honor, ask yourself what matters to you. Then find a way to uplift and propel forward those things you have decided to be worth your effort.
Dr. King’s words were eloquent, passionate, timely, and inspiring. But without people embracing them, heeding them, and pushing them into action, they are just words. We can give them life. We can make a difference and ensure that his dream of equality, justice, and service lives on.
Happy MLK Day!
Paul Jones, Ph.D.