On this day of remembrance for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to lift up four things I admire about him.
He was hopeful. His message was consistently optimistic. He had goals and he believed we could achieve them. “I have a dream,” he told us. There are no more memorable words from any American.
He was clear and forthright. He spoke the truth. He spoke with clarity and conviction, often saying (and doing) more than some of his supporters thought he should say. He consistently took the time to explain himself. He was determined to speak truth and pursue justice as fully as possible. If that took him to jail or even death, so be it.
His vision embraced all of us equally. His dream was for all of us. He truly believed in equality. At the Lincoln Memorial, on August 28, 1963, he said to to the huge crowd assembled,
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
He was courageous. He took on challenges and causes that others thought were beyond hope of winning, and he continued to do that all of his life. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the first of these challenges, and he was just 26 when he stepped up to that challenge. But later, after he had become famous and with many supporters urging him to stay focused on race issues alone, he spoke out against the Vietnam War, and after that mounted the Poor People’s Campaign.
Can we find leaders like this, today? Can each and every one of us be more like King?
On this day of remembrance, we need to make this a day on, not a day off. We need to follow his lead.