Lance Scranton: How to treat others
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The most famous portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech given at the Lincoln Memorial just 19 days before I was born.
Growing up in Canada, we studied American history with a sense of awe because our big brother down south seemed to have many things right and wasn’t afraid to talk about the issues that might otherwise be covered up like race relations and civil rights.
As students get to learn in most of my literature classes, the MLK speech was quite a bit longer and more involved than the snippet they hear every year about this time. The southern preacher, wasn’t perfect by any means, had his weaknesses, and battled his demons, but did understand the importance of how others should be treated. What impressed me the most was his response to those who didn’t realize that violence would ultimately result in their cause being destroyed.
One of my favorite sections of the seminal speech on civil rights was how we should respond when we are obviously wronged:
“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
It is easy to desire ruinous things for those who might wrong us, but MLK had a different idea: He called it “soul force” and it was embodied in his many speeches and peaceful marches.
He knew that eventually his presence would force responsibility and corrective action. Some think the bullet that ended his life took care of his presence, but his “soul force” continues to this day.
Dignity and discipline are important concepts for each of us to remember as we go out into a world made better by the presence of one inspired man, willing to let his presence be enough and who just a few months earlier from a Birmingham jail cell reiterated that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
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