March 20, 2013
Martin Luther King Jr. was an outstanding man and lived in a time where society around him was not quite outstanding. King stood up for equality and not what was good for him but what was good for the entire group. In my opinion, Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most revered men in the history of this great country. Unfortunately, my discussion will not be about King but will relate to a speech I heard about some of his ideals.
Last week I attended a keynote address held by Dr. Cameron Carter and he titled his speech “The Post Racial Blues”. Dr. Carter talked about King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and focused on what the letter meant in today’s society. Carter opened with various questions like “How would the letter be read today?” and “Has the view on Martin Luther King Jr. changed?” It made me wonder and I began to think about how our society currently views Dr. King and the efforts he made. One of the texts I read brought me back to the changes that King wanted to make and it was entitled “Serving up Hope” by Stephanie Shapiro. The article by Shapiro talks about a man named Galen Sampson who reminded me of Dr. King. Sampson is an extremely hard-working man who is giving former drug users a second chance. Sampson owns a restaurant and hires and trains former drug users to become chefs and to have the ability to run a restaurant of their own. Seeing people go out of their way to help others is an art that has been lost over many years; it is rare to see someone who is willing to risk their own name for the sake of other people. King and Sampson and quite similar in this regard and it is refreshing to see that somebody is willing to take that chance.
“First Practice” is a poem that I read by Gary Gildner which highlights a speech given by a coach to his players and is an attempt to “fire up” his men. The coach seems quite militaristic in his approach to his players but he is preparing his men for their first practice. Dr. Cameron Carter said in his speech about Martin Luther King Jr. that “He (Dr. King) died as public enemy but is now viewed as a citizen saint.” The line has been in my head since attending the speech because it was remarkably true and in the minds of these players their coach was the public enemy but it was for the good of the team that he was so hard on them. Although Dr. King wasn’t “hard” on his followers he led them to their “battles” and stood right by their side until the day he died. “A Father” by Bharati Mukherjee also reminded me of Dr. King. The story by Mukherjee tells the story of a hard-working man in Detroit who gets up very early each morning in order to help support his family. This father is willing to do whatever he can in order to support his family and so was Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King would do anything in order to reach his goals and this determined father would go to extreme lengths in order to feel successful.
It seemed to me that Dr. King believed that if we had true equality than we would have the ability to chase our dreams and pursue happiness. Richard Hague discusses the idea of doing what truly makes up internally happy in “Directions for resisting the SAT.” This poem by Hague actually made me smile and cringe at the same time. I thought back to taking the SAT and the excitement of applying to colleges and then I also felt uneasy reminiscing back to the moments when I was sitting taking this gut-wrenching test. Fortunately, for every reader of this poem, the poem was not about the SAT but about doing what makes us happy and not letting one test determine our entire life. Hague and Dr. King shared this idea of happiness and searching for what is actually important to each individual and not conforming to what everybody else does. Individuality is extremely important in today’s society and it scares me that people seem to be conforming more than ever before; exploring what makes us happy should be everybody’s first priority.