Significance of the King holiday
The Kansas City Star
Two milestone events lend extraordinary significance to today’s observance of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
On only the second time that Inauguration Day and the King holiday have coincided, the nation will witness the country’s first black president, Barack Obama, sworn in for a second term.
And today and throughout the year, Americans will remember King’s unparalleled “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered half a century ago this coming summer at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
In Kansas City, the theme of this year’s weeklong celebration for the slain civil rights leader’s birthday is “Remember, Reignite, Reclaim the Dream.” This community honors King with speeches, music, awards and other special events.
The country certainly has advanced since King’s Aug. 28, 1963, “I Have a Dream” speech. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, outlawing the discriminatory practices that King and many others marched and spoke against.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed, eliminating literacy tests and other discriminatory devices used to keep African Americans from voting. Many other federal and local laws have followed to ensure people’s constitutional rights regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or natural origin.
But there is no room for complacency.
Voter identification and other state laws renew discriminatory practices against minorities and older people. Poverty, racial profiling and inadequate education hit hardest at black and Latino communities.
King said 50 years ago that America had given minorities a “bad check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” The civil rights movement continued because King and others refused to accept the deficit in this great nation.
King spoke of a “fierce urgency of now.”
Obama must work with that same sense of urgency for all Americans.
King spoke of a vision in which all children will “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
It is achievable if more people dare to dream — and act.