Today's the day when we commemorate the legendary beacon of equality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His relentless advocacy of non-violent resistance has paved the way toward a better America and a better world. As I scan my personal network of family and friends (on Facebook, of course) I am greeted by a rainbow of races. What could be a better testament to his famous dream, his forecast of society’s future, that one day we will be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin?
Today, as we celebrate Dr. King’s triumphs, I am reminded of a more recent speech, given by President Obama on his trip to India in November 2010. He said, “Throughout my life, including my work as a young man on behalf of the urban poor, I have always found inspiration in the life of Gandhiji and in his simple and profound lesson to be the change we seek in the world. And just as he summoned Indians to seek their destiny, he influenced champions of equality in my own country, including a young Martin Luther King.” The President went on to say “…I might not be standing before you today, as President of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world.”
Non-violence, known in Sanskrit as ahimsa , is a concept we can thank both Dr. King and Gandhi for. However, in our rapidly globalizing world, the visibility of violence is on a disturbingly steep upward trajectory. From female foeticide in Haryana’s villages to rapes in American colleges; from human rights’ abuses in prisons to wars in the name of religion, in these turbulent times we seem to have forgotten the lessons both Gandhi and King left for us.
Elijah English, a fifth grader from Dallas, Texas reminds us of these lessons, this legacy. He writes, “What does legacy mean? Honestly, I didn't know till my mom made me Google it. It means something handed down from one generation to another.…So what kind of legacy will I carry forward? How will I react when things don't go my way? What words will I choose if people come against me?... I choose to make good choices in life, despite the negative things that may be temporary. I choose to be a community leader by being mayor of a city, then governor of a state, and when I'm 35 years old, president of the United States. I want to make a positive difference in the world...I choose to think before reacting. I choose to be there for my family, for the good and bad.”
On this 18th of January, more than eight decades after Dr. King’s birth, let us pledge to practice his teachings of respect and tolerance. Let us pledge to exemplify integrity in our personal and professional lives. Let us pledge to stand up with conviction for what we believe in. Let us pledge to carry forward the legacy of this great man, as ten year-old Elijah chose to do.