Last summer’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington enriched contemporary understanding of the vision and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. regarding racial equality. But the civil rights leader had a lot more to say about and to the world around him.
Much of his words remain potent as the nation observes what would have been his 85th birthday – including at a citywide celebration featuring University of Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little at noon Monday at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 29th Street North and Oliver.
King linked peace and love: “Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
He presciently fretted about values and technology: “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
In a column for Ebony magazine in the late 1950s, King even offered some tough love to a grieving young mother that resonates today. “Lonesomeness and fearfulness almost always stem from an over absorption in self,” he said, urging her to “find proper avenues of escape from self-pity. Cultivate a love for great music. Give yourself to some purpose or cause beyond yourself.”
King certainly lived that good advice, and continues to inspire and challenge us as individuals and as a nation dedicated to equality and justice.