“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I grew up in a time when there was a threat of weapons of mass destruction, an unpopular war in a far-away country, economic uncertainty, and violence amongst our people. I was influenced, as a child, by John F. Kennedy, who as President dared us to do what we could only dream.
As the years have passed, I am now more greatly influenced by another noble man, the most eloquent and articulate spokesman of peace and justice and one of the most courageous Americans of our time: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He dared us to dream of what we could collectively be. His messages are as vibrant, powerful and meaningful today as they were nearly 50 years ago.
His life has special impact for me and every American, for he helped to free us of the illusion that we can somehow lift ourselves up by holding others down.
He filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lives by its noblest principles.
He spoke to me when he preached that the yoke of oppression shackled the oppressor as well as the oppressed. He realized that oppression was more the result of a culture afraid of change than the result of hatred, and that the hearts and minds of well-intentioned moderates were more important to change than the actions of extremists.
He knew that a country could not truly be great when it did not live by its professed values, nor could any country truly be free when any of its people were not provided the freedoms and opportunities of the most privileged.
This was the same American dream that my Grandparents sought when they came to this country almost 100 years ago.
Dr. King dreamed the American dream.
He dreamed of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation, a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race, a Nation that not only celebrated its diversity, but employed the power of that diversity for the collective good.
His messages of collective action and union have had a profound effect on me.
All of us working together, serving together, thinking together, bringing the diversity of our skills and knowledge and spirit, are the most powerful community of action. We do this for each other and our children.
Dr. King’s call to serve is a powerful expression of this collective power. He once said that we all have to decide whether we “will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
He said life’s most persistent and nagging question is, “what are you doing for others?”
And that is why he believed that we all had a responsibility to do our part and to serve.
He said: “If all you do is sweep the streets, then sweep them just as well as Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel.”
None of us can do our work or fulfill the dreams of Dr. King without each other, for we “are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Thank you to those who live by Dr. King’s words every day and those who collectively work to serve in the noble act of providing care to others – whether you sweep, or cook, or nurse, or doctor.