The Country Celebrates My Birthday

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

People who have never heard of me consider my birthday a holiday.

Or a memorial.

That's because I was born on January 15, twenty-two years after Martin Luther King, Jr. (He would have been 81 this past Friday.)

Growing up in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I didn't pay much attention to the Civil Rights Movement. Then, between my sophmore and junior years of high school, we moved to the Lower Peninsula. I still lived in a small town, and we were 200 miles from Detroit. But my growing interest in what was going on in the world and the fact that I was now closer to towns with black population centers brought the issues into focus. Dr. King's non-violence stance and stirring speeches inspired me as much as the 1967 Detroit riots frightened me.

Then came April 4, 1968. I don't remember where I was, as I do for President Kennedy's assassination, but I do know that a voice of reason died that day. No, that isn't true. The man behind the voice died, but the voice itself lives on, and so does Dr. King's legacy.

I searched the Internet for quotes and found a number of great ones, from the profound to the humorous. My favorite is the one that begins this post, but here are some others for you to mull over this week.

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."

"The church must be reminded that is is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority."

"The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' . . . The good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'"

"It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important."

May Dr. King's legacy live on.

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