Today’s post is by Vera Partem ’06
If Martin Luther King, Jr. hadn’t been assassinated in Memphis in 1968, he might have lived to be 86 this year. As people around the U.S. reflect on the legacy of this seminal American civil rights figure, we must also use his legacy as a way to examine and to learn from the ongoing issues of inequality, disparity and rights for all. Despite the victories of the movement King led, the issues of justice and peace he fought for are still with us. Apart from reflecting on these issues on MLK Day, what are some concrete ways in which we all can make the world we live in a better place – not just on Martin Luther King Day, but ongoing in our own daily lives?
Even though schools and universities make a point of celebrating King’s life around the national holiday held in his honor, we all need to do our part to pay the same attention to examining the impact of the leader’s pursuit of justice and equality for all on a regular basis. It is often left up to individuals to take the initiative to broaden King’s legacy and to bring it to the present day. It is essential to make sure that we are all aware of the strengths and weaknesses in our society in order to continue effectively addressing the disparities. Since many of us will become the next generation of leaders, we should strive to be individuals who are cognizant of the challenges and realities facing our country – issues of educational inequality, crime, socioeconomic disparity and mistrust in our leaders, to name just a few.
For many young people, the link between Dr. King’s struggle and contemporary life remains elusive, at best. That’s why it is important to understand that MLK wasn’t just a legend, but he began as a regular person, just like you and I. He was a human being just like the rest of us, who was caught up in a great movement and did extraordinary things. You too can do extraordinary things if you are willing to be open minded and seize the opportunity to stand up for the things that matter to you in life. How can we fight like Dr. King did to defeat the three interrelated evils of war, racism, and poverty? Let’s begin by asking not just what we can do to help, but what we can do to create lasting change.
We must all realize that this change starts with each one of us. According to a new study from Harvard, only 6.7% of people from the world’s population are actual college degree-holders. That statistic is simply astonishing! Are you surprised? I surely was when I found out just how blessed I am to be a part of that select few…in fact, how truly lucky we all are to have the privilege and the opportunity to attend a leading institution like Lehigh University…to have a chance to become a part of that shockingly low statistic…the right to a stellar education is denied to many in this world, so with our opportunity comes a responsibility to give back and to become thoughtful, committed citizens who stand up for equality and representation for all.
Once this realization is made, perhaps we can begin to wrestle with King’s statement that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” A Lehigh degree opens many opportunities for our future – but we must also recognize that it opens a chance for each one of us to do something for someone else – perhaps for someone who has not yet had the chance that we have been all blessed with, or for someone who is not even aware how education can transform an individual’s future.
We all have something to contribute – we all can give back in our own way, utilizing our unique strengths to better the world we live in today…do not make an excuse and put it off until tomorrow, because we are not certain if tomorrow will come. All we are given is today – so let’s seize the day and let’s seize the challenge. And not just on MLK Day, but each and every day of our lives. We are presented with this question – what are we doing for others? Not because we have to, not because it’s beneficial to us, but because we are privileged to be able to do so…with no expectation to get anything back in return. We are not just tomorrow’s leaders – we are today’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, best friends, significant others, mentors and friends. Let’s remember that we are the change – people are watching us all as we become the future leaders of our society, so let us all ensure that we are worthy stewards of our future.
As a wise individual once noted, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Therefore, I still have a dream that one day we can defeat the interrelated evils of war, racism, and poverty through the power of education for all. Let’s begin by asking not just what we can do to help, but what we can do to create lasting change…