Rep. John Lewis on 90th Anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birth
“This year, this January, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 90 years old, had he lived. If he were here today, he would marvel at the great distance we have come and the progress we have made to lay down the burden of our nation’s dark past. The election of President Barack Obama would have been a high point for him, and the idea that such a wholesome, loving example of family unity represented the American family ideal for almost a decade would have meant a great deal to him. The building of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the front yard of America--the National Mall--would be another marker of success.
“In the last years of his life, Dr. King said the struggle had shifted from an extension of rights black Americans and others were long overdue to a struggle for true equality. Today’s accomplishments, like the growing number of women and people of color who are now elected to Congress, are important down payments on the kind of equitable democracy Dr. King worked to help create for every American.
“But he would also remark on the great distance we still must travel before we finally lay down the burden of race and class in America. Violence has escalated, not abated, since he died. It is everywhere in our homes, our communities, our nation and our international relationships. Security and fear have eclipsed democratic mandates and overcome efforts to work toward peace.
“The wealth gap today is wider than it was in the 1960s. The dramatic effects of climate change threaten the survival of entire cultures, yet they are denied and left unaddressed. Our infrastructure is crumbling, wages have been stagnant for decades, our voting system is so filled with holes that it has been tampered with by outside forces, and the quests for money and individual ambition have replaced the social motivations that drove Dr. King. There is an urgent need to do more than simply review the messages of Dr. King and then tuck them away.
“King’s life and his message must become our mandate. Each and every one of us must commit to do all we can to recapture what our democracy has lost and innovate new ways of creating equity, love, and peace. If you see something that is not right, say something. Do something. We are the change we have been seeking.”