“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What harrowing words spoken 57 years ago by a true icon and revered figure of American history.  Heralded as one of the most influential voices during a tumultuous and divided period in this country, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood as a giant in the civil rights movement, dedicating and ultimately giving his life for causes greater than himself and rooted in helping others. As a scholar, clergy member, speaker, activist, and leader in so many facets of life, Dr. King left an indelible and profound mark on so many people, and the legacy he left continues to this day. 

During this time of year when we pay special tribute and honor Dr. King, I find myself moved to two schools of thoughts concerning who he is and what he accomplished. One is centered on the exuberant celebration of the life he lived, and the other is a reflection of where we are in comparison to the dream he dared to dream and worked his life for.

The former of the two groups of thought is the easiest and most obvious to bring forth. From the numerous marches he led to protest segregation, to his assumption of various leadership roles in organizations committed to fighting for civil rights for all, to his tireless effort in forging the power of written and spoken word to move and motivate, Dr. King blazed a path of change, and his presence was felt across the nation and around the world.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the work he did to end racial inequality and was posthumously award The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He has now been memorialized on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., etching his name as a truly groundbreaking and historical figure.

This now brings me to the latter of the two thoughts. Dr. King’s dream was very much prophetic, but one is left to believe that this prophecy of universal equality is yet to be completely fulfilled. Dr. Vincent Harding, a historian and close friend of Dr. King’s, noted in his introduction of King’s book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community” that the efforts they made were just the foundation and beginnings of the ultimate goal of true equality. He quoted Dr. King’s words from one of his letters:

“Let us be those creative dissenters who will call our beloved nation to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

They knew then as we know now that the herculean accomplishments of desegregation made into law were monumental feats that would only be a precursor of the much larger mountain to climb: the concept of equality existing in the minds and hearts of people.

This is where it is my belief that Dr. King’s words and his life calls us to action through the years of time since he’s been gone. Although there are many facets of our daily lives and the structures that surround us, the one aspect we have full control of is staring at us in the mirror.

As we take one day out of the year to celebrate Dr. King and his legacy, let us also be thoughtful of how we take part in continuing that legacy the other 364 days of the year. Let us work fervently to expunge hate in any instance we come close to and replace it with love. Let us stand firm on erasing the dividing lines that marginalize based on race, creed, color, or anything else that separates us. Let us tenaciously break through the walls that block us from letting this dream become a reality, which can only be reached through the minds and hearts of people.

Dr. King lived a life like no other, and he continues to be an inspiration through the decades. That inspiration is what leaves me with the hope that we can continue to move closer to the vision he had for this country. It is the hope that my wife and I want for our children (pictured above) as they mature in this world as adults. It is the hope that I so dearly want for all, as Dr. King’s dream truly speaks to unity, togetherness, and serving others.  

As we celebrate today, let us also reflect and heed the call to action to do our part to realize equality every day. As Dr. King stated:

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Senior Manager, Corporate Indirect Procurement at Tyson Foods