Revered civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King has joined the pantheon of America’s greatest — Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson — with the dedication of his memorial in Washington, D.C.
There was an informal unveiling on Aug. 26, but Hurricane Irene's raking of the Eastern Seaboard delayed the long-anticipated formal dedication from then until Oct. 16. Ceremonies today, including a speech by President Barack Obama, completed the official process.
King confidant and former U.N. Ambassadore Andrew Young told Newsmax magazine why Dr. King's dream must never die:
In August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to present his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, and began by predicting that gathering would go down as “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of America.”
Almost 50 years later, the nation marks another milestone in the struggle for equal rights: The unveiling of the Martin Luther King Memorial, commemorating the life and work of America’s great civil rights champion, in the nation’s capital.
Sadly, even many in the civil rights movement still lack a clear understanding of precisely what my dear friend, colleague, and mentor Dr. King was trying to achieve.
Story continues below video of an exclusive Newsmax interview recorded before the original dedication date and its postponement.
Of course, in his speech he called on America to live up to the “promissory note” written by its Founders, one of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all. But I believe the ultimate meaning of Martin’s life transcends even that noble purpose. I believe history will show Martin’s greatest legacy was in how he fought for that goal through moral suasion rather than violent confrontation.
Some forget that Martin’s guiding ethos was Christian. As such, it was spiritual and nonracial. Martin believed that America had a responsibility to show the world how to resolve problems without resorting to violence. And so he transcended the traditional role history has assigned him, as a civil rights leader representing African-Americans.
He was that, to be sure. But on a broader dimension, his life blazed a path of peaceful nonviolence. It is, I believe, an example the rest of the world’s people can — and must — follow, irrespective of race.
One reason nonviolence is so important in America is that our nation was founded on dissent. The Founders dissented not only from the king, but also from one another. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, for example, hated each other.
But in a sense, both were right.
Despite his great intellect, Jefferson never could balance the books on his plantation. Hamilton, by contrast, was raised in a grocery store in the West Indies. He had been dealing with economics since he was 6 years old, so he knew the importance of trade, tariffs, and treaties. Jefferson conceived of a Democracy without economics, and you can’t have democracy without economics.
Had Jefferson completely prevailed over Hamilton, I shudder to imagine the consequences. George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, and Ben Franklin created a balanced dialogue that led to the greatest nation in human history. As the intellectual descendants of those cantankerous colonials, we should recognize that dissent in in our blood.
Hearing a great diversity of voices is critical to our democracy. What Martin taught was the wisdom of expressing dissent peacefully, to thereby ensure the sweet fruit of liberty is redemptive, rather than bitter and venomous.
As Martin’s memorial is unveiled . . . some of my recollections will be deeply personal. Everyone pictures Martin on the platform, his arm outstretched before hundreds of thousands.
But there was another side to the civil rights struggle. That was captured in the famous photograph of Martin and me as we waited for a flight at the Montgomery, Ala., airport, frustrated by a long delay due to a canceled flight.That is such a great picture because it captures the 15 lonely, suffering years leading up to his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
We should never forget the years of adversity that led to that brighter day. In my new book, I say that I would have taken a bullet for Martin. I knew God had chosen Martin to lead us.
Martin was the voice, the spirit, and brains of the movement. He would frequently tell me: “Everybody’s going to die. And nobody can decide when they die, or how they die. The only choice you have is what you die for. And you have to begin living for what you’re going to die for, because it’s so easy to die for nothing.”
As we dedicate his memorial, we should consider Martin’s example.
For what Americans choose to livefor will have profound consequences for the entire globe. As themrecent uprisings in the Middle East demonstrate, what affects one of us, affects us all.
In the years ahead, we must create a means for democracy to work for all the world’s citizens. In other words, we must reconcile the soaring rhetoric of Jefferson with the temporal economics of Alexander Hamilton.
As someone who marched alongside Martin and shared his struggle, I’ve often pondered what it means for his statue to now stand in the nation’s capital along with those of America’s greatest presidents. I believe it is merely coincidental that Dr. Martin Luther King happened to be African-American. More significantly, is that he showed us how to resolve our differences through nonviolence.
And in that sense Martin’s work — and ours — has only just begun.
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