Our View: No one could kill King's message
If his children and widow and others were correct all along, if Martin Luther King Jr. really was assassinated as the result of a plot involving the highest levels of the U.S. government, then a horrible conspiracy played out with precision and tragic success.
Its presumed aim, however, "to remove Dr. King from the American scene," as U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said in the Washington Post last year, failed miserably. Dr. King is as much a part of the American scene today as the ongoing struggle for equal rights, fairness, tolerance, and a better America for all.
More than half a century after his death, everything King taught us and all that he left us to work on remain urgent, daily priorities. And never is that more at the fore than on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday signed into law in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan.
"King gave us our marching orders — to not delay in changing our society. (More than) 50 years later, it's a lesson we still have yet to fully embrace," Edward T. Bowser argued, writing in 2015 for Alabama Media. "It's that silence that continues to cripple progress and slow that 'fierce urgency' King demanded. Make no mistake, the fight for equality is not over."
"King taught us that our goal ought to be a society in which all of us are judged not by the color of our skin, in both its literal and metaphorical senses, but by the content of our character," Mark Heller wrote at Academy of the Lakes, a college-prep school in Land O' Lakes, Fla. "That has become, or in very real ways is becoming, 'The American Way.'"
"Let us give thanks to God for this true prophet of our times, who taught us how to dream and how to realize those dreams," the Rev. Thomas Rosica said last year of King, writing for Salt and Light Media of Toronto. "King embodied the compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good."
Duluth can give thanks, and we can refocus our energies on the legacy of our nation's greatest-ever civil rights leader. Just as we do every year. There again are opportunities to worship together, break bread together as a community, march side by side through our downtown, and rally for unity at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Events this year are today and tomorrow. Go to duluthnaacp.org/mlk for details.
No, it's not always easy to participate. Or to remember. Or continue the struggle. So we can recall what King said: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." And, "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."
King's words live on. Just as surely as the expectation of and demand for equal rights for all.
His legacy could not be removed and will not be removed — not even by an assassin's rifle.