"You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is the day that we celebrate the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When I was a child, my mom taught me about Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy and all the people who worked for peace and justice in the 60s. She always wore peace sign jewelry on MLK day and I adopted the same practice (though I have to admit I wear peace jewelry every day, and now have the symbol tattooed on myself, as well). She told me about what the world was like when there was segregation in schools and rampant racism across the country. She taught me "We Shall Overcome" and to love everyone, and to not understand how anyone could judge anyone by the color of their skin. At some point, I decided I wanted to be a Rev. Dr. because he was a Rev. Dr. and it seemed that that was the way to change the world.
There are days when I look at this nation and at this world and I am delighted with the change that we have made. More Americans have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And while today I wish we could stand up and celebrate the post-MLK, post-racism, post-discrimination world we live in, this is not the case. There is an institution of racism in this country that is as embarrassing as it has ever been. There is an institution of prejudice and discrimination against all forms of "other" that is as embarrassing as it has ever been.
But the reason I posted the quotation I did, as opposed to the more-popular words of his "I Have a Dream" speech, is because I still believe that, in service to one another, we can change the world. I believe that every American is capable of great things, if only those things begin in service to others. If we as a nation could let go of our aggressive individualism and act out a loving sociocentrism, I think we would be on our way to peace.
And of course I just watched the "I Have a Dream" speech on YouTube before posting this. So of course I want to let freedom ring from every mountainside. And I want to have restored faith in this country and in our ability to seek justice. Because with this restored faith, "we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."
It's been nearly half a century since the civil rights movement, and we are stagnant. As Dr. King has said, our freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of our neighbor. It's time that we stood up and recognized that we shall overcome. Not that I shall overcome or that you shall overcome but that WE shall overcome.