Reflecting on the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Martin Luther King rose on the American scene like a star in the night when he led thousands of Americans in the Montgomery bus boycott. They were ‘voting’ for full human rights with their feet.”
Sargent Shriver | New York, NY | June 10, 1964

Our Quote of the Week is a reminder of Dr. King’s ability to lead and organize. We remember him this week on the 56th anniversary of his assassination.

In 1964, Sargent Shriver spoke these words during his New York University Commencement. At the time, he was leading both Peace Corps and the War on Poverty. He spoke about Dr. King in connection to the “politics of service,” tying together the push for basic human rights with the notion of peacebuilding.

King and Shriver had very different backgrounds and different paths in life, but they had several key things in common, and in many ways, the work of one complemented that of the other. They were both deeply spiritual, and were, each in their own way, moved to serve others out of deep devotion to their Christian beliefs. They were both dynamic and gifted communicators. And they both, at different times in their lives, fought staunchly for the rights of workers, of the poor, of Black Americans and of other marginalized groups. They also both spoke out against the war in Vietnam.

In describing him, Sargent Shriver highlights King’s ability to organize others to “vote with their feet"; this refers to King’s leadership of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott that would result in the US Supreme Court’s ruling to end segregation on public buses. Shriver’s emphasis reminds us of King’s ability to lead and to empower people — a power that they could exert to bring about a more equal and just society.

As we remember Dr. King, let us commit to following his example: to exert the influence we each have in standing up for the equality and peace that he envisioned in the creation of a “beloved community.”

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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