Harris: MLK - What I learned from him

Faye Harris

Most people in America know who Dr. Martin Luther King is. According to my calendar, his actions are worthy enough to have a day set aside in his honor, on Monday, Jan. 21, this year. However as with others whose names appear there throughout the year, it’s what we learn from their actions that will be remembered long after a few generations have passed.
He must have been smart. He graduated from high school at age 15. He followed both his father and grandfather as he graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta. But these items are just information available to anyone with a library card or a computer.
What is valuable to me is what I learned from his actions. As with most of us, there is value in an example that we can follow. So after a bit of study, the first thing I noted about the man was we mustn’t be afraid to try something new. A deep interest and getting started is half the battle.
Thomas Edison wasn’t considered the brightest bulb in the pack by his teachers. However, when he was working on the light bulb and did what many would call failed, he had the attitude that, “Now I know another way that won’t work!” And he just kept trying. One look into a darkened room, reaching for the nearby switch and flicking it on for instant light, and we find Mr. Edison had it right! So much for his teacher’s ignorance of exactly what he was capable of. He was admired by Dr. King.

More people are concerned about your ability than about your race or where you are on the economic scale. At Crozer Theological Seminary, MLK was president of his senior class. This class was made up of mostly white students.
As a great example of one overcoming adversity, what about Elvis Presley? Ever visited his small childhood home in Tupelo? Obviously that family was not wealthy in money!
A person’s actions often speak louder than words. MLK led the first Black nonviolent demonstration in the United States. Not only did he garner many to voluntarily work for and with him, but his actions caused the U.S. Supreme Court to end segregation on buses.
We should select someone (or several people) to admire, to be an example of what we would like to accomplish in this life. For MLK it was Gandhi. This man went around in rags. Yet the way he lived has caused many to follow his lead.

Do the work required to achieve success. King’s leadership demanded he travel millions of miles to give speeches. This often separated him from his family for days. But one must pay the price required in order to succeed.
Dr. King was jailed in Birmingham when he protested for his beliefs.
Now, most of us will never appear on the cover of Time Magazine as MLK did in 1960. Most of us will never win the Nobel Prize for peace, as King did. But the reality of all our existences is, we each “have a dream’”

And that dream is very personal and often deals with our ultimate life goal--something for which we are willing to give much time and effort to accomplish, regardless of the difficulties we must work through, the problems we must overcome...
In the end, MLK gave his very life in April of 1968 as he was working toward his dream. That payment will rarely be called for in the lives of most of us.

(Columnist Faye Harris may b e reached via email at Fayeharris77@yahoo.com.)


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