Since 1986, Americans have celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, honoring one man's legacy of non-violent activism and civil rights triumphs. This holiday celebrates the man arrested 30 times for his participation in civil rights activities, but given the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35. Dr. King, like many forward-thinkers before him, found his life ended abruptly by someone opposing his message of change.
The day before his April 4, 1968 assassination, King said, "Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation."
Having lost family and mentors to violence and facing threats to his own life, King showed his willingness to die ensuring a life more fair and free for future generations. Through his dynamic leadership and non-violent protests, King influenced tremendous strides toward desegregation and racial tolerance, leading to the multi-cultural, multi-racial melting pot of the America we live in today.
I can recall the first time I heard King's famous, 'I Have a Dream Speech', and it moved me, although kids of other races drank from the same water fountains as me and played on the same playground without riots or media attention every day.
I admit I was proud when my children described their diverse group of friends and classmates at the public elementary school by their features, not their color. They don't see race as a boundary and have trouble wrapping their brains around a movement that they now only experience the benefits of.
America, once torn by racial segregation, is now led by a bi-racial president, who won after a campaign of change and hope. President Obama delivered a speech from a D.C. church Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010 where the young Dr. King once spoke his message of hope in the face of his generation's challenges.
Obama recognized King's contribution to society, saying, "We enjoy the fruits of prejudice and bigotry being lifted -- slowly, sometimes in fits and starts, but irrevocably -- from human hearts. It's that progress that made it possible for me to be here today."
So as we celebrate the holiday for Dr. King, consider how his 'dream' has been realized, as our schools and workplaces reflect the equality he fought for and our nation continually strives to be what it ought to be.