Martin Luther King Jr.: His Message Today
Today we honor Martin Luther King Jr. Like most great advocates of human rights, Dr. King received his greatest accolades after his death. True, he received honors during his lifetime, but his single-minded pursuit of the civil rights cause made him a controversial figure.
King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail is a powerful statement of his philosophy of non-violent, direct action. “The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation...we have not made a single gain [in] civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure,” he wrote. He rejected the notion that time would eventually bring the equality that the civil rights movement was fighting for. “Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”
How does Dr. King’s message apply today? It means that those of us committed to King’s vision of a society built upon equal rights must actively work to create that goal. Discrimination, injustice and persecution will not end unless we end it.
It may appear a huge task. But if we start with the young, by educating them early in what human rights are, by bringing them to understand why they are important – for their own survival as well as that of others – then the task is not insurmountable but quite doable. We don’t all have to be a Martin Luther King Jr. to make a difference. Each person doing what he can in his own community can change an entire nation.
Human Rights Director
Church of Scientology International