Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflections on the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King

The Martin Luther King holiday offers moments of reflection on the legacy of Dr. King. With the observance we are reminded of his works, writings, speeches and catch glimpses of historic 1960’s-era film clips. We’re called to greater levels of morality and humility, and in recent years the holiday also sparks heightened awareness of the nobility of volunteerism and public service.

While listening to a presentation as part of Southwest Minnesota State University’s MLK Day events celebrating Dr. King’s life and contributions, I also appreciated keynote speaker Mahmoud El-Kati’s message that “(we) can’t use (our) freedom to deny other people’s freedom.” El-Kati credited Dr. King with advancing moral progress, and cited the civil rights, women’s and sexual orientation movements as all being instructive about being better Americans. “Democracy is simply this,” he said, “(It’s) a process and not a state or condition. Not being; but becoming. Easily lost, never fully won. Its essence is eternal struggle. Government doesn’t create democracy, people do.” Whether the focus is a right to vote, a right not to be abused, or a right to equal access to jobs, services and institutions, any gains come as a result of struggle.

El-Kati is a lecturer, writer and commentator on the African American experience and is co-founder and director of the annual Pan-African conference at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He also teaches courses at Metro State University in the Twin Cities and at Minneapolis North High School.

Something else that stuck with me as I left the event is the speaker’s statement that Dr. King’s legacy is to help us “learn how to live together without having to live alike; to keep the quest for human dignity and mutual respect.”

Please add a comment if you’d like to share a thought or experience in honor of MLK.

Lois Schmidt, NRS, Willmar

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