Of all the ways I saw the possibilities and ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day weekend playing out, I never conceived it would begin with Donald Trump attacking Representative John Lewis and calling him as a man of “no action.” When I first read the news, then read those tweets (for the love of Pete, those tweets – whiskey tango hotel), I was angry. Then I thought of the work Representative Lewis, Dr. King, James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, and Roy Wilkins, the civil rights activists known as the “Big Six” (I – and others think Dorothy Height should also be included but there’s institutionalized gender bias for you). I thought of their work and the tenets behind the actions of their work. Anger isn’t what I need to emit and experience. America is angry and hurting enough. We need to be resilient and unbending in holding our current political leaders accountable for working for the interests of all Americans. All around, people continue to be inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr and the legacy his work for civil rights, nonviolence, battling racism and discrimination, and protesting socially ingrained injustices.
Instead of anger, I chose to express my gratitude and alliance with Representative Lewis. And focus on being thankful for his tireless work for the benefit of all U.S. citizens.
Dr. King is often relegated to the soundbites of I have a dream. And, arguably, with great reason! Dr. King is not only one of the greatest orators our country has ever witnessed, that speech is one heck of a fantastic and beautiful message of humanity and vision. I continue to get chills and teary when I hear those words. Fortunately for us, and unlike our incoming head of state, Dr. King was a man of so much more than his beautiful words.
His final speech is no less penetrating, and I have that live recording of the speech, including audience reactions, in full for you, here. The soundbites from his speeches are iconic, but the entire messages are due their audience, too. Especially now, today, this particular speech is especially relevant. So, so, so and timely. Sadly, so. Chillingly so! I listened this morning as I started my morning, finally putting my Hamilton soundtrack looping on hold.
He was addressing the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. This speech was given two days before he was murdered on the balcony outside his room at Lorraine Hotel in Memphis (which is now the National Civil Rights Museum and I highly recommend you to go).
There are so many of his messages, speeches, and writings I love. He has so much to teach us we still have to learn. Here is a short list of some of my favorite quotes from this great man.
- “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
- “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
- “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
- “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
- “Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”
- “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
- “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”
- “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
- “One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”
- “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
- “I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
And to use the words of Dr. King, but I wouldn’t stop there. In fact, as a small part, I am marching on Saturday.