By Staff Sgt. Sidney McSwain , 92nd Air Refueling Wing Equal Opportunity
/ Published January 10, 2018
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”
These words were spoken to over a quarter million people at the National Mall in 1963. King’s blood, sweat and tears were integral in turning the nation’s attention towards the social inequality that plagued our nation since its inception. Through non-violent acts and peaceful protests, King made an attempt to raise our nation to the vision of our founding fathers: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Attempting to unite the nation, he spoke words appealing to the soul and striking the hearts of Americans during one of the nation’s darkest chapters.
Born on Jan 15, 1929, King’s original vision was to follow in his father’s footsteps as pastor of his church’s congregation. King graduated from Morehouse College, Georgia in 1948 at the age of 19 and ultimately completed his doctoral studies at Boston University in 1955. During his enrollment at Crozer Theologial Seminary, Pennsylvania (1948-51), King attended a sermon from the President of Howard University, Washington D.C. on Gandhi’s campaigns of nonviolent resistance to British colonialism. King was so moved by this message, he began to study the works of Gandhi and his philosophies, strategies and methods of nonviolence. Unbeknownst to King at the time, he would soon be called upon to help plunge the nation into a new chapter.
King’s power was put to the test for the first time in 1955 when he was chosen as the spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a campaign by African-Americans to force integration into the Montgomery, Alabama bus lines. After 381 consecutive days of boycotting, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in the transportation system was unconstitutional.
In 1963, King served as a driving force for the March for Jobs and Freedom, also known as the “March on Washington” where he gave his timeless “I Have a Dream” speech. 13 years of persistent non-violent effort towards social equality resulted in the passing of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act eliminating legislated racial segregation in the United States and made it illegal to discriminate against African Americans or other minorities in public, education, and transportation settings marking a monumental victory for equality in the United States. King commitment to civil service in the 1950’s and 60’s towards true equality for African Americans, broke down barriers of injustice, and paved a way to bridge the gap between societies and individuals.
This year as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day consider January 15th as a day "on" not a day "off". Challenge yourself and one another, to find ways to strengthen your community and to bridge any barriers still present in your social constructs. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave back in service of our great nation, let us continue to live out his dream to never stop improving the content of our character and the communities that we serve.