In this Aug. 28, 1963 photo, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, gestures during his "I Have a Dream" speech as he addresses thousands of civil rights supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. Months before the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington in 1963, he fine-tuned his civil rights message before a much smaller audience in North Carolina. Reporters had covered King’s 55-minute speech at a high school gymnasium in Rocky Mount on Nov. 27, 1962, but a recording wasn’t known to exist until English professor Jason Miller found an aging reel-to-reel tape in the town’s public library. (AP Photo)

Today We Honor Rev. King, A Sojourner of Justice

There are moments in our national history that have called Americans to bend the arc of history towards justice. Each moment has required exceptional leadership. Today, we commemorate one such leader who illuminated our nation by his courage and dedication to the truth.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the American potential more fully than it was actualized at the time. He challenged the distorted conventional acceptance of a “separate but equal” citizenry.

Instead, he drew upon that promise of our founding that every person is “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” Reverend King reminded communities across the country that we have a duty to rectify the original sin of our nation and to respect the “dignity and worth of all human personality.”

Today, we celebrate this sojourner of justice, and we remember his sacrifice. Because of his persistent struggle on the road towards freedom; because of his vision for an America in which men and women, boys and girls, of every race would learn, work, and pray side-by-side, we now have made great national strides to embrace the inherent dignity of humanity.

While we continue to conquer racial bigotry, we cannot neglect the current climb towards justice for all – especially for children.

Just five years after Reverend King’s death, another grave injustice stained our nation. The Supreme Court ruled that unborn children have no right to life. That decision defied the very essence of freedom – without life, there is no liberty. Without life, there is no pursuit of happiness. Yet, since Roe v. Wade, that right has been snatched away from 56 million unborn children.

As Reverend King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, has rightly stated: “Abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie.” The lie that there is no inherent worth in humanity. The lie that some people do not deserve the chance to become the next musicians, scientists, architects, leaders, and service members. The lie that not every life is equally valuable to our Creator.

This is the lie that Reverend King devoted his life to not simply dispelling, but to displaying to the world its utter perversion. He did so powerfully – with grace and conviction. Today, we are called to do the same with any degradation of human dignity.

This week, as thousands gather from across the country to march for life, passing those same steps upon which Martin Luther King, Jr. stood, let us remember his call: “Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God’s children.”

May we honor this noble wish by cherishing each life – born and unborn – and by working tirelessly to defend those who cannot defend themselves. So that we march onwards and upwards, grounded in prayer and inspired by truth, to recognize the gift of life.

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