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“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
Martin Luther King Jr. was a prominent and inspirational leader during the 1960s civil rights movement. His memorable and inspiring “I Have a Dream” speech, which he gave at the 1963 March on Washington, consistently sends a chill down my spine every time I hear or read its powerful words. King was born on January 15, 1929, and he was assassinated in 1968 while giving a speech from a balcony in Tennessee. I think about the impact that he had not only on that moment in history, but also the everlasting imprint he made on American society and the world.
No matter how many times I read about the famous leaders of the civil rights movement or reflect on my studies from elementary school through college, I am unable to completely wrap my head around the unjust segregation, the social and political racial inequalities, and the amount of pain and suffering that took place during my parents’ generation.
I believe that this post would be nothing without emphasizing the fact that Martin Luther King is widely recognized for his nonviolent approach to civil disobedience and building momentum and capturing the voices of those who had been ignored.
Shortly after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to capitulate to her oppressors by giving up her seat on a bus to a white man, King was inspired to launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (He had been chosen to lead the Montgomery Improvement Association, and thus the boycott.) After several arrests during peaceful demonstrations, unprovoked violence from racist oppressors, and a tremendous amount of hope and patience, the Supreme Court finally declared segregation on public transportation illegal.
King had many tremendous achievements in addition to the reverberating impacts of his “I Have a Dream” speech (1963), and it is important to call out how he lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After peaceful protests following in the footsteps of inspiring leaders of peace, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed. King is also well known for his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which he wrote after being arrested with many of his followers for nonviolent sit-ins at “white” restaurants.
So today we remove our hats, bow our heads, and take a moment to wish this devoted, brilliant, and inspirational figure a happy birthday. We have come so far in the fight for equality, and would not be where we are today without the impact that he had on our world.
January 21, 2013