Good evening, everyone. It is a great honor and privilege to be given the opportunity to speak with you here tonight.
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" A simple concept, yet such very wise words.
As I reflect today on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--the man he was, his many accomplishments, and the indelible impact his determination, philosophy, words, and actions had on America--I sit in awe, humbled. Born in the days of segregation, Dr. King was keenly aware of the gross inequalities in our country. With the benefit of strong, educated parents who instilled in him solid reason and a sense of justice, he channeled his anger and frustration to fuel the Civil Rights Movement. The way he approached life, how he treated others, and his ability to tackle the issues of racism and inequality so deeply ingrained in our society and--in the end--overcome, sets a stellar example for all of us.
Dr. King was an activist, a humanitarian, a thinker, and a catalyst for a movement that is as relevant today as it was in the mid-1950s. While we've seen so much progress over the past sixty years, there's still a long way to go . . . locally, nationally, and globally. In our own community and throughout the U.S., we see the uncomfortable truth play out in educational statistics, in economic disparity, and--even more painfully--in continuing acts of hatred and brutality. Globally, we witness horrific acts of violence against humanity. Our hearts break with the death of every innocent, man, woman, or child, whose only crime is to be of a certain religion, race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. Awareness is key. We as a community, as a society, and as the human race, owe it to ourselves and each other to not rest until we reach true equality. To quote Dr. King, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. . . . Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." WE ARE those individuals.
The civil rights movement, and the human rights movement, march on. I am encouraged to see many people from our very own community stepping up to fight injustice and be a voice for those who are all too often unheard. My heart swells with hope and pride when I witness someone take a stand, and not allow him or herself to be shouted down or ignored. It's happening . . . every day . . . and the movement only succeeds with the strength of many. Together, let's carry the torch lit sixty years ago by Dr. King to continue to shed light on the many inequities of our society with the ultimate goal of achieving peace and equality for all.
Dr. King reminds us that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I ask that each of us honor his memory by keeping those words in our hearts to help guide us in our daily lives, and to instill that sentiment in others. With awareness, openness, understanding, and commitment to the great good, we shall overcome.