Today is a very important day for my family and me. It’s a day of gratitude and reflection in our house. You may have the day off from work, your children may be home from school; but I want to share our perspective on Martin Luther King, Jr. and MLK Day.
To personalize and summarize the importance of the work Reverend King did, not only for the black community but for the country as a whole, in a single sentence, I would say that if it weren’t for King, I would not be your financial advisor and friend. It’s as simple as that.
Today is a day that personifies the “American Dream” because of the outcomes of Dr. King’s work. Without his work and the achievements it led to and continues to lead to today, we wouldn’t have so many of the things we have today.
One of NASA's human 'computers,' Katherine Johnson, performed the complex calculations that enabled humans to achieve space flight successfully.
Scientist Otis Boykin’s noteworthy inventions include a wire precision resistor and a control unit for the pacemaker. When he died in 1982, he had 26 patents in his name.
James Van Der Zee was a renowned, Harlem-based photographer known for his posed, storied pictures capturing Harlem’s citizenry and celebrity.
Kara Walker, an artist who rose to fame for large paper silhouettes to explore social issues surrounding gender, race, and history.
While I’ve mentioned scientists and artists here, so many entertainers, athletes, politicians, and others have made pivotal contributions to our country that not only help define who we are today but enable our lives to be better and brighter because of their work.
Dr. King was a unique and inspiring man. In 1941 he went to Moorehouse College to become a lawyer or doctor but chose theology instead and attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. He became valedictorian of his class. In 1954 he became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He then earned a Ph.D. in theology from Boston University in 1955.
In December 1955, King was chosen to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, formed by the Black community to boycott the segregated city buses. Late in 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was unconstitutional. In 1957, King and other activists established a group later known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to help local organizations carry out civil rights activities in the South.
During his years in seminary, King became intrigued by the work and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi on nonviolence. In 1959 he visited India to study Gandhi’s techniques of nonviolent protest. Most of us are familiar with the results of his studies and the work he did in the 1960s, his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1964, and Noble Peace Prize that same year, the historic Selma march, the 1966 drive against racial discrimination in Chicago, and his assassination on April 4th, 1968.
I know that it is hard, and may even feel abnormal, to think about Dr. King and his work without thinking about race, segregation, and violence, but I want you to join me in looking at things from the lens of opportunity, advancement, and outcomes. Regardless of our race, our lives all benefit today from the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. back then. I think Dr. King would appreciate that approach.
Today, let's remember Dr. King as a brilliant speaker, activist, and theologian whose work paved the way for many of the advancements we still benefit from today.