By Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin B. Stuart
MRMC Command Sgt. Major
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal."
One of the world's greatest advocates of non-violent social change strategies, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most influential men of our times. He was an outstanding civil rights activist who fought the "good fight" in his quest to see justice, peace, equality, and righteousness in America for all people.
On January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, he entered the world as the first son and second child born to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., and Alberta Williams King. In 1953, he married the former Coretta Scott, a music student and native of Alabama.
Together they raised four children. A pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was the organization responsible for the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott from 1955 to 1956 (381 days).
He was also a founder and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1957 to 1968. He was arrested thirty times for participating in civil rights activities. Dr. King received several hundred awards for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement.
These include Time magazine's Man of the Year (1963), and the Nobel Peace Prize (1964), for which he was the youngest man, at age 35, and the second American to be awarded the prestigious medal. He also received the John F. Kennedy Award (1964) and The Rosa L. Parks Award (1968).
Dr. King was a vital personality of the modern era. His lectures and remarks stirred the concern and sparked the conscience of a generation. The movements and marches he led brought significant changes within the fabric of American life.
His courageous and selfless devotion provided direction throughout thirteen years of civil rights activities; his charismatic leadership inspired men and women, young and old, across the nation and abroad.
On August 28, 1963, Dr. King delivered the keynote address to an audience of more than 200,000 civil rights supporters during the March on Washington, DC (a massive protest to promote jobs and civil rights), which he and several other civil rights leaders had organized.
This remains one of the most pivotal events of the twentieth century. The highpoint of this gathering was Dr. King's oratory, "I Have a Dream," during which he expressed the hopes of the civil rights movement in words as moving as any throughout American history.
The many speeches, marches, and demonstrations of this brave freedom fighter created the political momentum that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited segregation in public accommodations, as well as discrimination in education and employment.
Dr. King's concept of "somebodiness" gave black and poor people a new sense of self worth and dignity. His philosophy of nonviolent direct action galvanized the conscience of this nation and helped to reorder its priorities.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, for example, went before Congress as a result of Dr. King's Selma to Montgomery march.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. In Memphis to assist sanitation workers in a protest against low wages and intolerable conditions, Dr. King was continuing in his fight for equality among men. News of his assassination resulted in an outpouring of shock and anger throughout the world, prompting riots in more than 100 U.S. cities.
Five days after Dr. King's death, the President of the United States proclaimed a day of mourning, and flags were flown at half-staff for the funeral service, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia. During the administration of President Ronald Reagan, the birthday of Dr. King became a federal holiday of the United States.
In October 2011, a 30-foot statue was erected to honor Dr. King on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall is the first monument to honor a non-U.S. president.
This year, the National theme for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration is "Remember, Celebrate, Act -- A Day On, Not A Day Off."
Hopefully, American citizens and people all over the globe will continue to remember Dr. King's tireless service in his fight for freedom, justice, and equality. It is certainly fitting and proper that we celebrate the birthday of a man who had worked so hard, and died so unjustly, trying to do his best for his country -- our country.
Lastly, remembering once again the theme of this year's celebration, let us not look on the birthday of Dr. King as simply a day off from work or school, but instead see it as a day "on" -- a day during which we can continue living out the dreams of a man consumed with the possibility of an equitable existence for all humans.
Perhaps Dr. King's lifelong dream merely coincides with the dream of every man and woman throughout our great land -- in other words, perhaps his and ours are both the American Dream.