MLK: Leadership For The Ages

Dr. Martin Luther King was born in January, and before the month or my posts end, I would like to pay tribute for the first time to a man who I’m finding out rather lately, was so much more of a humanist than just what his record of civil rights leadership shows. I read an article recently that Dr. King spoke out against the Viet Nam war despite the setbacks that would undermine him both personally and the broader work of the civil rights movement politically. According to an article in the New York Times, Time To Break the Silence on Palestine, by Michelle Alexander:

Dr. King was urged by some of his strongest allies to remain silent about the unjust and disastrous (Viet Nam) war, because he would be falsely labeled a Communist, suffer retaliation and severe backlash, alienate supporters and threaten the fragile process of the civil rights movement. King rejected all the well-meaning advice and said, ‘I come to this magnificent house of worship (the Riverside Church in Manhattan) tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice’…and he said ‘A time comes when silence is betrayal.’ It was a lonely, moral stance. And it cost him. But it set an example of what is required of us if we are to honor our deepest values in times of crisis, even when silence would better serve our personal interests or the communities and causes we hold most dear.”

This is what impressed me the most–that he spoke out and stood up for his values despite the real risk of hurting the causes and movement that he so passionately worked for his whole life to honor and lead. It goes to show that there is no rationalization for separation of core values despite great loss. Dr King’s was an amazing and unusual strength of vision allied with action. Whew! So hard to find in today’s political climate especially with the ability of smear campaigns and “fake news” via social media and other news networks to cripple an honest viewpoint. However, despite today’s obstacles, I do believe that Dr King would still stand up and call out hypocrisy and untruths undeterred by political correctness and greater loss. This stands as one of his greatest legacies to me, and now I am so much more grateful and indebted to him beyond his “I Have A Dream” speech and leadership. It’s time I read more of his own writings.


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