Weekly Columns

The National Mall is dotted with memorials and monuments that honor our nation’s most influential leaders. It’s appropriate that the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is situated along this treasured area.

Dr. King was a humble public servant who dedicated his life to pursing justice and fairness for all people. His leadership in the civil rights movement was about spurring America to live up to the ideals of our founding: liberty and equality under the law, for all. In their righteous pursuit of that goal, the leaders, activists and participants championing this cause for African Americans helped make the United States a more perfect Union. 

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once visited Arkansas where he addressed the 1958 graduating class of Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). He told the crowd of over 1,000 that each of us “must be measured by his soul,” and continued, saying, “we are challenged to enter the new age with understanding in our hearts.” 

The civil rights movement, at its foundation, was intertwined with faith and spirituality. The call to ensure equality and justice for every American was just as much based on a biblical ethic as anything else, so it’s fitting prayer breakfast events are held all over the country to celebrate Dr. King’s memory and contributions. I recently attended the annual MLK Prayer Breakfast at the University of Central Arkansas to celebrate this remarkable leader’s legacy. 

Dr. King’s faith certainly played an undeniable role in shaping his perspective and activism. He, alongside so many others in the movement, echoed the belief that a higher power demanded all his children be afforded the value and dignity they inherently possess.

We can all be encouraged by how far we’ve come in this regard, and that progress bears the unmistakable mark of Dr. King. Our nation owes him so much and his legacy richly deserves this reverence and admiration.

Just five short years after addressing the students at AM&N, Dr. King led the March on Washington and gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

To this day, school children learn of the memorable, moving refrains of that address. Thankfully, today those same children sit in integrated classrooms, learning about what makes each of them different and unique from one another, but also about how much they share in common with their friends who might look different than they do. 

That may seem ordinary now, but it is something worth reflecting on and celebrating. And no reflection or celebration would be complete without acknowledging the immense contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day let us join together to continue the important work of striving for justice, equality and unity.