We have seen the first Black woman and first person of Asian American descent sworn in as our country’s vice president.
We have seen a literal assault on our democracy in the deadly events of Jan. 6 that some have referred to as a failed coup attempt or insurrection.
Another such “first” is the fact that this week marked the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day we have celebrated after our nation’s social justice and racial discrimination reawakening – precipitated by the death of George Floyd last May. The sustained focus on that tragedy reinforces the fact that Minneapolis remains at the epicenter of not just the senseless tragedy, but, more importantly, our community’s call to lead the national racial reconciliation dialog.
So, on this first occasion to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King following the death of George Floyd, it seems timely to reexamine some of Dr. King’s words to assess their ongoing relevance in the present time.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became the voice and face of the nascent U.S. civil rights movement upon his ascension to the role of president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. He led marches of peaceful resistance, spoke widely on civil rights issues, and met with domestic and world leaders in order to further justice and peace. Cities across America erupted in protests, some of them violent, calling for social and economic justice. The country was embroiled in a bitter war in Southeast Asia that ultimately claimed nearly 60,000 American lives. An election year took on mammoth proportions in 1968 as it did in our most recent elections. There were tumultuous times then just as there are tumultuous times now.
As we reflect on the present and on the times in which he lived, let us ponder some of Dr. King’s words:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, as now, there are disenfranchised citizens looking to be made whole. With the deep societal divisions that existed then and now, we must always remember our “single garment of destiny.” The civil rights movement drove toward inclusion for all people in order to reconcile the “two Americas” that Dr. King often referenced.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
The passionate pursuit of justice punctuates both the era of Dr. King and now. With injustices abounding, many of us have concluded that we cannot remain on the sidelines and pretend that problems do not exist in our society. There is always a place for the peaceful protests advocated by Dr. King in order further the causes of freedom, justice, and equality.
“Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Then, as now, there is a desire to move toward a brighter future. The path, in 1968 and in 2021, toward a better America is not always clear. But if, as a people and together as an industry, we work to regain our footing and commit to taking that first step, we can make progress and ensure a brighter and more equitable future for all people.
Let us make that first step together; let’s not be silent about the things that matter. Happy New Year!