This week, we celebrated a man whose life changed the very landscape of the nation we call home. As everyone knows, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a clergyman, activist and major player in the American Civil Rights Movement. His dream sparked peaceful protests, changed minds and ultimately brought America to the values it holds dear today – that all men are created equal.
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Dr. King demanded equality for the oppressed through his speeches and his visits were highly attended. Fifty years ago, one of his visits landed him in Marietta, Ohio. A highly anticipated visit, Dr. King was brought to Marietta College as a part of the Thomas Lecture Series in 1967.
Although many residents were elated to know that Dr. King would make a stop in the Mid-Ohio Valley, there were some who did not approve of the speaking engagement. Letters to the Editor flooded the desks of local newspapers with sentiments stating “wherever he goes troubles follow” and that he should “not be allowed to visit Marietta College.”
However, his views must have held stronger with the majority as The Ban Johnson Field House was filled leaving standing room only as residents packed in to hear Dr. King speak. He chose to visit a predominantly white area of Appalachia to speak on choosing love over hate. His words, that are now turning 50, still need to fall on the ears of every American.
“I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of goodwill. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy, and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”
A little over a year later, Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. However, his legacy touched people from all around the world and still does today. After his inspiring speech in Marietta, the people of the Mid-Ohio Valley mourned him as well.
Former President of Marietta College, Dr. Frank E. Duddy Jr., said, “His death Thursday at the hand of an assassin who was as cowardly as Dr. King was courageous, has revolted the entire Marietta College community, as it has rational men everywhere. Yet the act has been done, and Marietta College joins all people who mourn the passing of Dr. King.”
Dr. King’s legacy is one of equality, peace and love. He reminds us that we are responsible for our words, actions and determining what is just in our communities. His legacy reminds us that small actions, done with great kindness and for the right reasons, make the greatest differences in our own homes and communities. The time to take action is now.What will you do this week to celebrate the life of Dr. King?