How Martin Luther King, Jr. Inspired Me

Several weeks ago I bought a book titled “The World’s Great Speeches,” because I wanted to feel the words of people who changed our nation and our lives with the power of their words.

One of the first speeches I read was Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream.”

I chose it because we praise it, and talk about it, and quote it, but like many of us, I hadn’t read it all the way through.

It is a masterpiece. Even 58 years later and without me being physically part of that experience, I can FEEL the words, the angst, the oppression; the bone-deep yearning and relentless striving for freedom that is being so unjustly withheld.

But the most personal and powerful moment about Dr. King for me is something I learned from watching a documentary a few years ago.

He was marching in a certain city and they were making a circuitous route around a section of city blocks. People lined up on both sides; some cheering them on, many angry and threatening.

As he peacefully walked, one woman stepped up to him and spit in his face.

I will never forget his response.

He paused and said, as near as I can recall, “You are too lovely a person to do something like that,” and went on his way.

By the time he had walked the route and returned to that same place, the woman stepped forward again. And apologized.

That, to me, is the essence of Dr. Martin Luther King.

That is why his movement changed history, and why we can still change what happens today.

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, and all who helped him sacrifice, love, and continually hold fast to his dream.

The baton has been passed.

“And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back…Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force…

We cannot walk alone.

I have a dream today…With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope….and we will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’”

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