MLK: A Somber Anniversary, an Enduring Legacy

RNC Communications - April 4, 2013

On April 4, we commemorate the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. It was 45 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, that the great civil rights leader was assassinated.  This somber anniversary should give us cause to recall the movement he inspired and to uphold his legacy.

Today his monument stands on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., not far from the Lincoln Memorial where he shared his dream with the nation. Millions of visitors from across the country and around the world pass by and are given the chance to reflect on his life.

But the truest testament to his influence is not etched in stone. No, the real measure of his work is that America is today a better place thanks to him. Segregation is but a memory. Discrimination is outlawed. Racism is recognized as the evil that it is. 

Yet there is always work left to be done. The task of forming a ‘more perfect union’ is never finished. So the best way to pay tribute to Dr. King is to continue to stand for liberty, equal opportunity, and justice for all--just as he did.

And how bravely he stood. It can be easy to forget the resistance he faced--the hate, the violence, the arrests. Twenty-nine times he went to jail. But he faced it all calmly, resolutely and with kindness, insisting on meeting hate with love, violence with peace.

He once noted, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?’” Dr. King could answer that question without hesitation. He helped America live up to its ideals.

King’s focus was making a difference--doing what was right. Cut short though it was, his was truly a life well-lived. No one can dispute that. And his life challenges all of us to serve a purpose greater than ourselves and for the greater good.

Remember Dr. King today for what his legacy can inspire us to do: to help our neighbor, to right wrongs, to treat all with dignity and respect, and to live with love in our hearts even in the most trying of circumstances.  

In a 1968 speech at his beloved Ebenezer Baptist Church, he spoke of what he’d want others to say upon his death: “I want you to say on that day, that I did try in my life…to love and serve humanity.” Forty-five years later, we can say those words with complete confidence.

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