MARTIN LUTHER KING HOLIDAY
MADAME WALKER CENTER
The thousands of gatherings that are taking place today, including this one, are a testament to Dr. King’s life and legacy. Even beyond such celebrations, we can look to Washington, D.C. and know that, at long last, a King will take his rightful place among presidents. We can look to Dr. King’s coming memorial and revel in the sweet irony that a servant will have equal standing with the masters.
Because of Dr. King, we have made great progress in America. We can point to increased African-American homeownership and a growing Black middle class. Even the immediate condemnation of Mel Gibson’s and Michael Richards’ racist rants is part of Dr. King’s legacy.
Yet, despite these developments, we must not deceive ourselves into believing that this great nation has achieved its full potential when it comes to racial and economic equality. Attending memorials such as this one does not absolve us of our responsibility as humane beings to mitigate the suffering of the poor or to attenuate racism. No, our time today will have been in vain if we leave here without a fundamental and genuine commitment to justice and equality.
And before I go further, I would like to acknowledge the recent push for equality that has been taking place right across the street from here. This push has been led by a group of African-American students, three in particular. The Black Student Initiative has been nonviolent in speech as well as in action. These students have handled themselves with more class, with more intelligence, and with more maturity than their sick detractors who have hidden behind the safety and anonymity of their computers. Their struggle is a microcosm of the ongoing battle for equality in America. Their struggle exposes the fact that there is still a gap between our nation’s greatest aspirations and its existing reality. That gap, which continues to grow, has existed from the founding of...