Today, people all over the USA will celebrate the life, legacy and dream of Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist clergyman turned civil rights leader, who galvanized the country with his vision that people should be judged by the content of their character not, the color of the skin.
While this may seem like a no-brainer to most of you today, back in the early 1900's, it was a radical idea in a country that was permeated with racial segregation.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929, Dr. King grew up in an environment where blacks and whites led totally disparate lives - they ate at different restaurants, went to different schools and even, had to sit in separate areas when traveling in buses and trains.
The situation was even worse in places like Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King moved with his wife Coretta, to serve as pastor of the local church in 1955. The issue finally came to a head in December that year, when a woman named Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back section of a bus that was reserved for African Americans and was sent to jail as a result.
To bring justice to her, Dr. King initiated a movement to boycott all buses. The protest, which caught on throughout the nation, lasted an entire year. Finally, in 1956 the Supreme Court of the United States abolished the transportation segregation law.
However, Dr. King was not done yet - For the next ten years he went around the country encouraging people to fight against all kinds of segregation in a non-violent peaceful manner, by organizing sit-ins, boycotts and leading protest marches. His non-violent, yet effective measures earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Sadly, Dr. King was killed by an assassin, while on a trip to Memphis,Tennessee in 1968, and did not live long enough to see his dream come true.
Today, over 40 years after his death, we still honor this great man and his passion for equality, by celebrating his life on the third Monday of every January.
Thanks to him and his 'radical' ideas America is slowly but surely become a nation where a person is judged on his/her merit not, color of skin. For how else can one explain the election of Mr. Barack Obama to the White House or the appointment of Ursula Burns, the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company like Xerox. Though we still have a long way to go, we are definitely heading in the right direction.
However, resting on our laurels is not enough. We now challenge you to go one step further and seek out your own dream. While it may sound impossible and take some time to achieve, it will come true, if you put your mind to it - Dr. King's sure did, didn't it?
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!