Making King's dream reality still important 50 years after speech

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 23:00

A half century ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that “content of character” would outweigh the color of a person’s skin.

Strides have been made since King delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.

But, sadly, racism still exists — and most likely will forever. It’s a harsh truth, but a truth nonetheless.

But that doesn’t mean we should give up on King’s dream.

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

King’s right.

Having everyone treat all citizens as equals is an uphill battle, but one worth fighting for every day. And it’s something we all control.

While we can’t force others to do what we feel is right, we do have the power to treat everyone we come in contact with on a daily basis with respect.

Actions. Integrity. Ethics. These are some of the aspects people should be judged on.

Not race.

Here are statements from Alaska’s U.S. senators issued on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 20):


Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

As we recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, let us remember the good that he brought to our nation through his vision of service, community empowerment and tireless advocacy for equality.

As America honors Dr. King’s legacy, it is important that we remember his call to service by taking a day “on” versus taking a day “off.” This is a day where people are called to serve their communities.

It has now been 20 years since the King Holiday and Service Act was signed into law. Serving our local communities, improving a part of your world — even if in a small way — is a fitting way to honor the man who altered our nation’s history for the better.

Though America has reached many benchmarks of progress over the years, Dr. King’s message of building bridges and open communication is still very much needed. In our hearts, in our communities and to one another we can promote the vision of tolerance Dr. King so strongly believed in.

Compromise can work, tolerance can be the norm, good can prevail — but not without all Americans investing themselves in this effort.

I urge you to get out and impact your community in a positive way. As Dr. King said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. … You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Love your community, and it will love you right back. Let’s continue what Dr. King started, help his legacy live on.


Sen. Mark Begich:

As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we remember that his teachings have never been more important as we struggle to find common ground in government and in our public lives. Today, we celebrate a man who stirred our nation to bridge our differences, and whose legacy still drives us. And as we visualize the National Mall in Washington filled with thousands of Americans who gathered to witness Dr. King’s most famous “I have a dream” speech during that hot summer of 1963, we realize that today, nearly half a century later, Dr. King’s dream is needed more than ever.

The march of progress has brought us closer to achieving Dr. King’s dream but there is much more that we can do. Just last week, we marked 50 years since President Johnson declared a national war on poverty, a declaration prompted to a large extent by Dr. King’s work. The steps this nation took to address poverty were significant. With a helping hand from their government, thousands of Americans climbed out of depths of poverty.

Yet, serious problems remain. Today, there are nearly 50 million Americans grappling with the economic and social hardships of living in poverty, including 13 million children. Across this country and in our own state, we have too many young people still growing up in neighborhoods with persistent crime and violence.

Underfunded and under-performing schools continue to plague communities across the nation and many Americans still don’t have access to health care. These persistent conditions are evidence of the denial of full equality and opportunity for all.

This is unacceptable in the richest and freest country on earth.

As we mark Dr. King’s birthday today, let us rededicate ourselves to the basic values to which Dr. King dedicated his life’s work. Values like respect, civility and nonviolence. Let us strengthen the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth.

I can think of no better model than that lived by Dr. King.

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