The Legacy of Dr. King’s Commitment to Non Violence: The 21st Century Challenge to Our Nation


Description: The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was America’s 20th Century pre-eminent Apostle of Non-Violence. He understood that in our society, during the 24/7 interactions of people with one another in their daily lives, violence lies like molten lava beneath the surface of society just waiting to erupt. The challenge his commitment to non-violence poses to us is to dedicate and re-dedicate ourselves to forego, as an option, the choice of a gun, to resolve those disputes that will occur among us.

In his acceptance upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964, he reminded us that the choice among nations, like the choice among people in civil societies is “non-violence or non- existence, non-violence or co-annihilation.”

There are more guns in America than people. These lethal weapons hang like swords of Damocles over the various communities throughout our nation. It is regrettable that organizations like the National Rifle Association promote, outside of the protected 2nd Amendment defensive use in our homes, their use as a viable rational choice.

To, Dr. King, however, there was and are no exceptions, in or outside the home, justifying the choice of the use of violence as a means or resolving our problems.

As we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of his celebrated “I Have A Dream” speech, this August 28th, 2013, it is important for us to remember his wisdom. “All people are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be”.

In quoting John Donne, Dr. King reminded us that “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent and part of the main…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

The recent tragic events in the Trayvon Martin case indicate how we, as a nation, have transgressed and tarnished the pristine beauty and optimism of Dr. King’s Dream. He had prophetic hope in the goodness of America. He believed we would, over time, rise up and embrace one another as brother and sisters, irrespective of our race, ethnicity or color of our skin.

Regrettably, “race” remains the 800-pound gorilla residing in the living room of every household in America. We can no longer ignore its presence. Black and Brown people must courageously reach out in dialogue with their white brothers and sisters and conduct 24/7 discussions about race and our criminal justice system, and the historical consequences the legacy of slavery, our civil war, the Emancipation Proclamation and the failure of well-intended post-civil war Reconstruction has had on our current generation.

Speaker: Dr. Clarence B. Jones
Visiting Professor, University of San Francisco and a Scholar Writer in Residence, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute, Stanford University, and Palo Alto, CA

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