JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - His name was Michael.
He graduated high school at the age of 15 at a time when,
according to the U.S. census' website, less than 40 percent of the
nation was able to do so.
He flew up to the top five
percentile when he graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts, after
which he went on to earn a doctorate degree from Boston University's
School of Theology in 1955.
And he did all this as a black
man in a racially segregated country.
But his name wasn't
always Michael. As a matter of fact, his new name would become so
engraved into American history that the mere mention of it would
convey to me a message of equality and freedom.
Michael was born, his father changed both his own name and his son's
name to Martin Luther King, after one of my favorite historical
figures, the famous German protestant reformationist, Martin Luther.
Martin Luther King Jr. would prove to be just as much of a
revolutionary thinker as his namesake, and just like his namesake it
would not be a revolution of violence, but one of cultural
For 13 years, King fought racial inequity not
with bullets, fire or destruction, but with powerful speeches and
While other Americans received
unwanted advertisements and sales calls, King received death threats
and hate mail.
Those who called him an enemy found their
words did not have nearly as much effect on him as his did on them.
So, they eventually resorted to violence which stopped his
speeches, but not his legacy.
See, the person who killed
Martin Luther King Jr. and those like him may have thought they had
won, or maybe they thought they had put a stop to a troublesome
At least for me, all they had done was turn a hero
into an icon.
So now, on the third Monday of January every
year, schools close, federal employees stay home, and speeches are
made, all in the name of racial equality.
Nearly 47 years
later, we have equal opportunity laws, human resource policies and a
host of elected African-American officials in office.
Certainly we've come a long way since the 60s in the battle for
racial equality, and will continue to work toward a racial utopia in
years to come, but what can we learn from King's teachings and apply
We need to get to the heart of the matter.
I think every era brings a tragic conglomeration of unjust
prejudices about people of certain races, nationalities and
We shouldn't look at our neighbor and
automatically make presuppositions based on their clothes,
hairstyle, skin color or religion. I think we should look at our
neighbor and make one observation - that person is human.
With this observation, perhaps we can make the seemingly small
logical jump to treating that person like a human.
killed Martin Luther King Jr., but not his dream.
was equality for all mankind, regardless of race and also regardless
of religion or nationality.
At the end of his famous "I have
a dream" speech, King concluded in part with this:
allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and
every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to
speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white
men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to
Honoring the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.
isn't just about honoring a great man with a dream.
commitment - a commitment to judge your neighbors by the content of
their character, not by anything else; let us not forget this.
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
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