It is hard to write about an enigma or a contradiction to social norms. At least it is for me. Several authors have written books about this man that chronicle every minute of his life, it seems, and it is hard for me to pen a paragraph or two. Do we understand him? I doubt it. Maybe his wife did, and I hope so. Maybe his children did, I pray that they do. But for the average man, the everyday man, Martin Luther King is so, so difficult to understand and as a result, my work here today will be topical at best, but I will do my best to invite you into how I feel.
The Democrats would like for you to think he was a good old American Democrat, but he wasn’t. The Republicans would like to use him as a poster child of their party, but they can’t. Abraham Lincoln would have simply been proud of him regardless of what it said on his voter registration card. Martin Luther King was different, and not in the traditional Political Party sense of the word, he was simply different, perhaps unique. I can see a blending of Biblical Scholar, Gandhi and poet laureate. He was his own man. He had his own visions and no matter how much he tried to define and describe them, we just didn’t get it. President Kennedy didn’t get it. He was a great President and he simply didn’t get Martin Luther King. President Johnson didn’t get it and he signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Most of us who grew up in the south during the 50’s and 60’s didn’t get it, largely because the news media didn’t get it. Law enforcement didn’t get it; that’s clear. If you rounded up the cops in those videos from two decades of civil unrest and put each one on trial, many would spend the greater part of their lives in jail or worse.
So who actually “got” Martin Luther King? Not many. You don’t have to take off your shoes to help you count the number. It is so, so small. So how do we measure the man? What is the measure of the man? Superficially it is in his actions, but the depth of the man comes from his impact on every one of our lives. Throughout the year we speak his name, because we are routinely reminded of his impact on all of us. At least one day a year we celebrate the life of the man, like we will on Monday. When we stare into the imagery of a black President or a black Secretary of State or a black justice of the Supreme Court or a black Attorney General or a black Army General or a black governor or a black mayor or a black child in a very white school, we are reminded of one man’s dream that we all be measured by the content and character of our hearts and not the color of our skins. What a simple and profoundly defining illustration of the entirety of one man’s life.
Today we stand in a sea of black faces. Today we stand in a sea of faces of all colors. Few nations on this earth can say they are colorblind. Even with the racism that continues to haunt us and divide us and diminish us as a people and a nation we are by far a colorblind nation. It is not race that divides us any longer. Within our courts, schools, hallowed halls, churches, military bases, space platforms and every walk of life, we have put aside our differences and broken down the racial barriers and the bulwark is strong. We are not going back.
The path forward is paved by the footsteps of a man named Martin Luther King. His guiding light and his principled life will forever shape the destiny of our children. His light will grow and shine brightly in more places around the globe each and every day forevermore. His dream is now our dream and day-by-day it becomes the dream of many others. We walk in the light of this great American and we are a better people for having known him.