Every year, it is important that we stop and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I grew up in a time when our country refused to acknowledge civil rights for all people. My grandfather picked cotton, and my parents were faced with the signs that read “blacks only” and “whites only.” It is in large part because of Dr. King’s efforts that my family was able to go from cotton to Congress.
Dr. King fought for justice and equality in a peaceful and nonviolent way, and in return, he was met with jail sentences and violence. He never gave up, he remained hopeful in the face of all of this. Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” While we all come from different walks of life, we can still discuss ideas and differences without tearing each other down.
Dr. King imagined a fair and civil America, an America where a person’s race, gender, and zip code did not dictate future opportunities. I realize that our work towards racial equality is far from over, but Reverend King ensured that we moved toward that equality. My own upbringing, along with Dr. King’s work to combat poverty, were some of the driving principles behind my Opportunity Agenda. My mentor taught me that work is a good thing, but creating opportunities for others is a great thing.
Today, we honor the work he started, the doors that his work opened, and the message he died for. Let us all work together to ensure that Dr. King’s message of hope lives on.