Dear Dr. King:
I write to you this day as a 52-year-old African-American male, who has the benefit, albeit as a little boy, of remembering your assassination and the civil rights movement during the 60’s. I wanted to write you this letter of thanks in celebration of the national holiday that commemorates your life and work. Although it is a symbolic act, spiritually, I know that your appreciation for efforts to make a positive difference lives on.
I want to thank you for your life example of faith and spirituality. A backbone of faith is the only explanation I can come up with for your endurance and all-encompassing effort to change the landscape of civil rights in America. It would not be humanly possible to withstand threats to your family’s lives, yours, and your liberty without an abiding faith in God.
This example of faith is not lost on so many of us. The work of advocating for those who remain disenfranchised politically, socially, and economically continues today by alot of the leaders in the faith community. However, a number of so-called religious leaders, far too large, continue to imitate ministry in order to enhance their personal gain. This exploitation of the vulnerability of those in search of spiritual guidance is reprehensible and obviously a direct contradiction to your example. We continue to wrestle with the competing values of faith and spirituality against selfishness and materialism.
To address this problem, we should heed your instructions. “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values-that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.”
I would like to also thank you for your life example of courage. The logical byproduct of strong faith is courage. I have often asked during my study of your life how were you able to face the danger and the challenges. There is but one answer and it has to be the courage that derives from faith. You once said that ” a man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” You also said on the subject of courage that “we must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
There are so many in our society today who live their lives with the courage and conviction to make a positive difference in our world. We have lots of leaders, in all facets of the community, who advocate and serve others at the risk of being ostracized, punished, and yes even killed. We are obligated to your legacy to continue to encourage and exercise that brand of courage.
You said it best when you said that “a nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”
Finally, I want to thank you for hope. As I reflected on your life, teachings, and sacrifices, I felt a renewed sense of hope. So here are a few of the important things that I am hoping for:
I hope that our society will have the faith to address the civil rights tragedy that we call public education in large urban areas that at its best produces a nationwide African-American male graduation rate of 47%.
I hope that our society will have the courage to realize that the majority of us as human beings have the same desires and goals — excellent schools, safe communities, health care, lower taxes, the prospect of earning a decent living — and come together with respect and intellect in order to create those understandable desires and goals.
I hope that we will have the type of courage that you spoke of so that we refuse to allow those on the extreme fringes of our society to stoke the flames of bitterness and frustration. We must all focus and begin to build those dikes of which you spoke. After all, a true look at the numbers establishes that these extremists are a de-minimus faction seeking fame and fortune at the expense of our overwhelming majority perspective.
Finally, I hope that until next MLK day in 2012; we can further develop strong-minded men so that we close our installment account on the purchase of a spiritual death.
I too obviously must be dreaming. Thank you Dr. King.
Rest in peace.
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