What Might Martin Luther King Say Today?

Today, America celebrates the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 88th birthday.

His life brought about significant change in America as he led the Civil Rights Movement’s golden years for a short 13 years before his death at the age of 39 in 1968.

Yet until this day, he remains the moral voice of America.

He called America on the carpet for its ugly ways, for not living up to its creed of Constitutional promise for all of its citizens. He marched, preached and talked to the powers at all levels about injustice. He called out racism with direct confrontation that included, very effectively, the economic boycott.

His first civil disobedience campaign revolving around Rosa Parks’ seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus had more to do with putting the bus company into bankruptcy than it did with morality and the time for change.

King brought about more social change in his short years than the President of the United States. His fight was protest. He changed American politics forever.

As we reflect on Dr. King, his work is a miracle. He had no federal grant, he had no philanthropic donations, he had no political backing, he had no sponsorship ­crowd funding did not yet exist.

The King Voice

But he had a voice. He passed the hat, mostly in churches, for funding. He took a little and did a lot. He transformed the world and gave the world a weapon, the weapon of non-violence that he patterned after and learned from Mahatma Gandhi. He made his Baptist voice loud and heard, with eloquence and moral correctness. The King voice challenged and commanded.

Might he say, “If I had lived today, I would be 88, but I would still be marching?”

You might wonder, if he were still alive today, what would he say in his senior years say about our current times, as we watch the Obama era close and the era of Trump begin. What advice might he offer on the qualities of leadership?

Might he say, Obama, congratulations on your two-term election, but what did you do for your people? Might he say to Trump, your hate message might resonate with some, but your leadership as president is for all? Pay attention to what you say, because your words are powerful.

Might he question all the monies raised in political campaigns, but be surprised by how the monies are used?

Might he say, Obama, you are middle-aged and have miles to go in your lifetime, so use your time wisely and perhaps do more outside of the White House for your brethren than you did while in it?

Might he say, I wish I would have lived to be just 55, as you are now Obama, to see my children grown? Might he say, Trump, what do you do with your riches as you rule the world?

He would still be marching at 88

Might he say to Congressman John Lewis, speak up some more? I remember when we were marching in Selma and they cracked your head; you’ve earned the right to speak your mind. Don’t hear the critiques. They critiqued me when I was protesting the war in Viet Nam and in the end I was right.

Might he say to Barack, this history thing and legacy things are strange animals, that you don’t quite know when you are doing what you are doing how you will be measured, but what you do know is the right thing always wins, so just go for it?

Might he say to all, I wish in my day we had this social media technology? I think about all of the mimeograph machines and hand-written letters and telegrams and typing we did to get our message out. I think about all the phone calls I made.

Might he say, I would have been a monster on Twitter and magnificent on Facebook, but honestly, I wonder if people would remember my words had they been transmitted in such a way?

I think at the end of the day, I like the books I wrote and the speeches I wrote, because I had to think about it so seriously and share with my top staffers. Their input was valuable beyond my emotional twitter. However, had those tools been available in my day, I would have used them with efficiency; I would have touched so many more people across the world.

Might he say, “If I had lived today, I would be 88, but I would still be marching?”

Indeed, he might.  Happy birthday, Dr. King.

Hermene Hartman
Hermene Hartman

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