We closed our law office on Jan. 18 to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the bill creating a national holiday honoring Dr. King’s memory and historical achievements. This holiday was first observed in 1986 in most states. There was significant opposition, however, in several states to honoring the memory and legacy of the Civil Rights activist. It was not until 2000 that the holiday was observed in all 50 states.
Dr. King, without any doubt, played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in our nation. I will never forget the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr. King in our nation’s capital on Aug. 28, 1963. I was a very young lawyer living in Tuscaloosa at that time. The speech came at a time when race relations in America – and especially in the South – were not good. This was one of the best – and most effective for a cause – speeches in our nation’s history. The speech was a masterpiece and brought a nation to the reality that changes were badly needed. Unfortunately, not all of our citizens were ready for change and the struggle for equality continued. Hopefully, we all learned valuable lessons during that struggle.
I grew up in the segregated South and have to admit that too many good people sat back and accepted “Jim Crow laws” that held American citizens down simply because of the color of their skin. That was wrong and totally unacceptable. While we have made significant progress in this country over the years, there is still much to be done in race relations. Sadly, our nation seems to be more divided today than it was during the time when Jimmy Carter was in the White House. I am totally convinced that all Americans must work together to eliminate all aspects of racism that linger on in this country. If we fail in that regard, our nation and all citizens will pay the consequences. It’s time for Dr. King’s dream to become a reality.
God has blessed America, but all too often we tend to take those blessings for granted. We should listen and consider the words of Abraham Lincoln who said that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Those words were spoken in 1858 before he was elected president. Because of the subject matter, the speech created a great deal of controversy. While Lincoln was referring to slavery more than 150 years ago, the premise of his statement holds true today. We must put our differences aside, join hands, and make America truly “the land of the free” and “the home of the brave.” It might do us all good to find a copy of Dr. King’s “Dream” speech and reflect on his words.
My prayer today is for a nation whose people will see fit to honor God and to work together – in harmony – to make this country a better place for all. It’s time for all of us to put our divisions and differences aside and, when we do that, America will become a shining beacon on a hill for all to see. Truly – at that time – we will all be free at last!
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