On Tuesday, January 15, 1929, a segregated nation walled in by centuries of hatred, bigotry, and prejudice was given prophetic leader—a revolutionary leader. In Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr. was born into the home of a young Baptist preacher, and following his father and grandfather’s calling to the gospel with a passion—a passion for the gospel to not only save the soul, but also to save a nation from itself.
Today across our land, Americans celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but I fear most of us have forgotten this man and his legendary struggle for civil rights. Like all great leaders King was loved and hated. He was followed and misunderstood. Like all men, King was a man of clay feet, but his voice changed the world.
In 1964, when I getting ready to go off to kindergarten, King was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his struggle for civil rights during which he and his followers meet violence with a “turned cheek” and a loving heart. Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Nobel Committee said of King:
“He is the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races.
Today we pay tribute to Martin Luther King, the man who has never abandoned his faith in the unarmed struggle he is waging, who has suffered for his faith, who has been imprisoned on many occasions, whose home has been subject to bomb attacks, whose life and the lives of his family have been threatened, and who nevertheless has never faltered.
To this undaunted champion of peace the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament has awarded the Peace Prize for the year 1964.”
King took the timeless principles of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as his marching orders from above, and changed to world. Sadly, his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet as he stood on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis. On that dark day, his life ended, but his dream lived on—and changed the world.
Today, President Barak Obama, the first African American president of the United States, leads from the Oval Office, but he owes a great debt of gratitude to young Baptist preacher willing to dream “with eyes wide open.”
On August 28, 1963, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the presence of 250,000 loyal followers yearning for freedom. As the statue of Lincoln towered over him, King captured the hearts and minds of a generation by the simple, yet profound words—“I have a dream—I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Thank you, Dr. King for helping to make that dream come true for my four little girls.