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EDITORIAL: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. honored

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shaped history.

He was assassinated April 4, 1968, at a Memphis hotel.

King was a man of peace and his poignant messages on civil rights, coupled with his strong leadership of a national movement, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Furthermore, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are the direct result of the civil rights movement, for which King carried the banner.

He was born in 1929 in Atlanta, the son of a Baptist minister. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 and in 1955 received a Ph.D. in theology from Boston University. He served as assistant pastor of his father’s church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Throughout the nation, King led demonstrations, marches, protests, sit-ins and boycotts. Though he was jailed several times for his efforts, his demonstrations were always peaceful.

His legacy is one of decency and morality.

His message crossed all racial, ethnic, national and religious boundaries.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.

Unlike most of us, he worked each day of his life to turn that dream into reality.

Are we free at last?

Are we free from prejudice?

Are we free from racism?

Are we free from bigotry?

Are we free of bias?

Certainly not.

We are, however, farther down the road toward those freedoms than we would have been had it not been for King.

What began as a spark in the heart of a King became a glimmer of hope in the eyes of a nation and by the time of his death, erupted into a brilliant flame exposing the demons hidden within the darkest recesses of our souls.

While people adamantly deny their racism, King exposed it in ways that had not been done before and in doing so incubated a national dialogue that served as a catalyst for sweeping changes in public policy and in the ways we view ourselves.

By raising public awareness, stimulating public debate and peacefully petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, he demonstrated what it means to be an American.

He showed the true meaning of the First Amendment.

His dream can only be kept alive when we dare to look deep within ourselves and admit our prejudices. It is only by being honest with ourselves that we can gain freedom from the chains that bind us.

In 1983, the U.S. Congress made his birthday, Jan. 15, a national holiday. Each year the third Monday in January is observed as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The nation’s leaders, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, black and white, voted to remember King’s legacy with a national day of observance not just because he was a great African-American leader.

They did so because he was simply a great American.

The strides made in civil rights as the result of his efforts and the work of those who followed him are significant, but this week we should all consider just how far we still need to go to make our nation a place where all people are free at last.

People of all races, creeds and faiths took part in marches and celebrations of Dr. King’s life throughout the nation and here at home, as our community paid tribute to his legacy and expressed a commitment to continuing to fulfill the dream by the way they live their lives.

Community volunteerism is important and people throughout our county and throughout the nation are volunteering to help others this week in honor of MLK.

However, to truly honor his legacy of service, we must develop a spirit of helping others that goes beyond the annual celebration and simply becomes who we are.

— Editor Jim Zachary