January 15, 2007
The Rev. Martin Luther King would have turned 78 today had his life not been cut short by an assassin's bullet. More importantly, our nation would no doubt have achieved much greater progress toward racial harmony and social peace. His widow Coretta Scott King (who died last year) wrote an essay on the meaning of the holiday, on the Web site of The King Center, which is headquartered in Atlanta. She stresses that this day is not just to remember her husband, but is "above all a day of service," as a way to motivate citizens to help those who are less fortunate or have been victimized.
King's contribution was not just in bringing about justice for his people, but in maintaining a dignified, statesmanlike attitude, foreswearing any vengeance or score-settling. It was a model for South Africa's Nelson Mandela to follow. Neither man was ever a demagogic rabble-rouser. It is sad that some politicians opposed the creation of a holiday in honor of Rev. King, and that people still question the appropriateness of a national holiday in his honor. Think about it: What other leader in American history other than presidents or generals ever achieved as much greatness as he did?