Martin Luther King Day 2009
Sentences are interesting. They convey thoughts, they convey ideas and they convey dreams. They can be sweeping and grandiose, uniting people in the most challenging of times, and giving hope where little hope is readily visible. They can make us laugh. They can make us cry. And many of those sentences are indelibly etched in our minds - and in our hearts - forever.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"
When Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. said these words in 1963, they became part of history and helped inspire this nation to soon extend to all its citizens the rights guaranteed in our Constitution. More than forty five years later, those words still echo throughout our land even as they retain their power to inspire.
Today, we celebrate Dr. King and it is indeed a day of celebration not just here at Shippensburg but throughout our nation. We celebrate - and remember - the path upon which Dr. King guided us and where those steps -- sometimes difficult, sometimes incremental-- have led us.
According to 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." Through his actions on various streets of the segregated south, he showed his dedication and passion for the ideal that we are a nation in which all people are created equal. He showed he was ready to sacrifice for that goal, a goal more important to him than his own life.
Various events today and tomorrow will bring Dr. King's words and legacy to life. I especially encourage our students, for whom Dr. King is a figure in history, to participate as much as possible to see why he has earned this national celebration. One activity I strongly recommend is the interactive civil rights experience in the Ceddia Union Building. This display today and tomorrow gives a glimpse of what it was like to grow up during the civil rights movement by depicting prominent events and struggles faced during that period.
Dr. King, even then, realized that for his dream to succeed our entire nation needed to be engaged. He ably noted that: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Those words continue to hold deep meaning as our nation -- and our world -- faces many challenges and controversy. He knew to succeed we each must, in our own way, stand tall in the face of adversity.
Tomorrow, this nation's first African-American president will take the oath of office. Many stories have been written or broadcast in recent days and weeks about the fact that this historic inauguration. They noted that it follows the day we celebrate the life of the man who, by the force of his will and the true content of his character, started a chain of events that led us to this momentous occasion.
Many stories speculated about what Dr. King would think, if this validated his efforts, his life and even his death. I think he may have said it best in this quote: "We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."
We are all in this boat we call the United States of America and I like to think that Dr. King would agree the boat is sailing in the right direction.