No name embodies the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement more than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The slain leader is recognized on January 21 this year not only for the work he did during a life that was cut short, but also for the work that was left unfinished when he was taken down by an assassin’s bullet. However, the day in which Florida, and our nation, recognizes him, is a day dedicated to a quest, an ideal, that is far greater than the legacy of any one man. It is the millennia-long struggle for mankind to live free of oppression and bondage.
Our Founding Fathers, unable to resolve the issue of slavery, left the sticky details of that subject to later generations when they formed what would become the United States of America. If they had not done so, the flickering flame of this nascent nation may have gone out as quickly as it began. In that great foundational document which announced the colonialists intention to split from the royal authority under which they were living, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “…we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. “ In The Declaration of Independence the future president wrote “all” men are created equal (not some, not many, but all).
As our history documents, the issue of slavery came to a head when the southern states split from the northern states. Slavery, the domination of one man over another, was a prime mover of that split. President Abraham Lincoln, during the heart of the Civil War, authored and signed The Emancipation Proclamation which stated, in part: “… all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…”
Could any one man solve the moral challenge of slavery? History is replete with references to nations operating with slave labor. The great monuments in Egypt, for example, were built in part by the enslaved Jews. They were ultimately lead to freedom by their great leader Moses. Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded by his faithful apostle Matthew, stated “…and whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Although he may have been speaking in a spiritual context, I believe that Jesus foresaw the ultimate triumph of the slave over the master. With a flourish of his pen President Lincoln put into action the very words spoken 1830 years before.
The Civil Rights Movement, and those such as Dr. King who took part in it, carried on this struggle of literally Biblical proportions. Has the movement succeeded? Until the time comes when all men and women are judged not by the color of their skin, gender or nationality, but merely by their talents and abilities, then the movement has not fully accomplished its goal. We have made great strides towards that worthy destination. A traveler from 1776 would be astounded to see our nation as it is today. However, there is still far to go and much to do to get there.
As we recognize the day set aside to memorialize Dr. King’s birth, let us ponder what we can do to help mankind accept one another as equal creations with none master over another.
If you have any questions about the legislative process, or would like to learn more about a specific topic relating to government, please leave me a comment. I will gladly address your thoughts and concerns in an upcoming blog post.