“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 2007, my public speaking professor challenged me and my classmates to each make a presentation that was so exciting it was never to be forgotten. To make the task achievable, he granted us the freedom to chose from any subject we desired.
The subjects started off simple but entertaining. In my first presentation, I made the class sing to a song I liked, I didn’t even know the words, we just hummed away to my lead. Some one brought a live snake to a presentation and sent nearly half the class on their way running for safety.
A few weeks into the semester though, something extraordinary happened. A classmate from Kenya told a passionate story of his life experience as a child soldier. And then suddenly, as if a match of truth had been lit, the topics started to gravitate towards a more personal and sensitive nature that ranged from freedom, racism, violence, war and unjust persecution.
Inspired by my classmates, I knew I had to work on my presentation with a special degree of intensity. I too wanted to reach their hearts the way they had reached mine.
Fortunately, amidst my preparation, I came across the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Enlightened by his work, I knew I had a model to follow. I decided to direct my presentation towards the principles he stood for: fearlessness, hope and exuberence. Later when my presentation came to an end, a classmate approached me to share his own thoughts on what I had talked about. I can’t remember the words he said but I remember how they made me feel. They humbled and encouraged me.
So today as America celebrates MLK Day, I ask, what does Martin Luther King’s legacy mean to me? It means that through love for each other and open communication about the things that matter, we create vehicles of forward movement for the progress of all humanity. Even though we must relish progress, we must not get complacent, for Dr. King’s work is not yet complete. We must carry on.