On Martin Luther King, The Old Man & Ralph Waldo Emerson

01.16.12 6 years ago 8 Comments

There’s not much else to be said about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that has yet to be mentioned in documentaries, books and news reports. However, if a personal, intimate look at the man and his impact is what you’re looking for, ask someone old enough to remember when King was considered by some the most dangerous man in America. This past weekend I attended a breakfast in honor of King and more than the actual program, hearing people in attendance reflect on their own memories of Martin was the standout aspect of the entire event.

No description from even the world’s greatest writer can put into words how important he was to the fabric of the times. While not the only activist fighting for freedom, he was the face of the movement; the one people turned towards when guidance was needed. He fought for perceived unalienable rights, went toe-to-toe with the government and survived an assassination attempt on his life while really “in the streets.” Put it this way, had King been a rapper, he’d be glorified for actually living what he spoke.

Several quotes from Saturday’s event paint the picture of a generation of people who adored Martin, but one in particular sticks out. An older gentleman said, “I’m not sure where we, as a country, would be without that man. So often I wanted to fight back, riot over injustices I witnessed, but I thought about what he would want. He took all of our frustrations and placed them on his shoulders. That took more pride, courage and probably a fair share of insanity that anyone will ever imagine. God bless, Dr. King. He wasn’t perfect – no man is – but he is the closest thing I’ve seen towards a biblical figure in all my life.”

I’m sure I left out a sentence or a word, but that’s he gist of what he preached. More importantly, it was proof Martin’s “dream” remains subjective and one that’s stood the test of time long after he took his final breath on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. At the risk of coming off cheesy, the crater MLK has left on myself and the world brings me back to my favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

That’s the only way I have ever and will ever attempt to live my life. Happy MLK Day, everybody.

Bonus: And just because this clip will forever remain relevant…

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