Today he would have been 82

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    We tend to forget how young he was.  He was 26 when we noticed him at the Montgomery Bus boycott in 1955.

    He was only 35 in 1964 when he won the world’s greatest acknowledgment and became a Nobel Peace Laureate.

    When he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, he was still in his 30s.

    His was a voice of conscience.  His was a voice of prophecy, in the original sense of the Hebrew prophets.  He used his powerful voice to give voice to the concerns of those whose voices were not being heard.

    We may commemorate his birth Monday, with ceremonies, time off from work to school.

    We should celebrate his birth today.

    We should honor him and his memory by how we live every day.

    His name is Martin Luther King, Jr., born this day in 1929, in Atlanta Georgia.

    Today I will not recount his life, nor his death.

    Today I honor the words through which he continues to live, words which should challenge us as well as inspire us.

    Today perhaps a very few shorter passages can remind us that the challenges we face now, the shock we have experienced one week ago, are not totally new to us.

    Today we can realize that in the face of great difficulty words can sometimes motivate us to move forward, to right the wrongs we see around us.

    Allow me to share just a few sets of words.

    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

    Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

    It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.

    Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

    To be a Negro in America is to hope against hope.

    If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

    I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons–who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man.

    Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.

    A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

    Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.

    There are so many more I could offer.  Reread the one I posted just above this. Then allow me to close with one more, as I wish and offer Peace, and for this day at least allow myself to be guided by these final words:

    I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

    • teacherken

      today I am 64.  I have since his death live only a few years less of additional life than the length of his entire life.

      I can take any of the quotes I have offered, or from many others I could have offered, and explored the depth and meaning those words have for me, and should have for our society.

      But King’s words need know explanation.

      He spoke and wrote in a fashion that can, if we let it, instruct our souls, open our hearts.

      I know of no greater honor I can offer him on this day, when he would have been 82, than to try to make those words real, at least within my own life.

      Peace.