Weekly Columns

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a humble public servant who dedicated his life to pursing justice and equality for all people. His efforts for civil rights and the attention to this important cause was a turning point in the history of our country.

Dr. King had a profound impact on my generation. Many people remember reading about his efforts in the newspapers, listening to his speeches on the radio and watching his nonviolent protests unfold on the nightly news. The images of this era are forever etched in our memories. There are only a few individuals in our nation’s history that everyone agrees made this country a better place. Dr. King was one of them.

As Dr. King famously once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others,” It is fitting that in recent years, we have challenged ourselves to follow in the footsteps of Dr. King and commit ourselves to serving our neighbors and helping our community.

While President Reagan signed legislation into law observing Dr. King’s birthday as a federal holiday in 1983, 11 years later, President Clinton signed into law legislation declaring this as a National Day of Service.

As our nation struggles to overcome this slow economic recovery, many Americans are unemployed, facing tough decisions on what bills to pay and turning to the help of charities, churches and neighbors to help them meet the daily demands of life.

Community organizations have extended helping hands and many of you have reached out to friends, family and fellow citizens to help ease the burden of a lost job, empty dinner table or cut off utilities.

This goodwill is a true legacy of the way Dr. King lived his life and the vision he had for the future. His leadership, perseverance and inspiration helped lay the foundation that led our nation to elect its first African American President. His work and tireless advocacy inspire us today and will continue to do so.

We celebrate Dr. King’s achievements year-round and now a fitting tribute to this hero stands on the National Mall. This long-sought memorial honors Dr. King and the nonviolent struggle he led for civil rights, symbolizing everything this civil rights leader stood for.

This newest addition to the national monuments sits at 1964 Independence Avenue, a reference to the Civil Right’s Act of 1964 which Dr. King was influential in helping accomplish. This monument overlooks the Tidal Basin and is in good company, surrounded by memorials to some of our nation’s most influential leaders. Creating a visual ‘line of leadership,’ the monument is situated on a straight line between the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and the Jefferson Memorial.

His legacy and vision lives on as we follow his example through community service and strengthening the future of our country and the people who call it home.