(Updated on Jan. 15, 2021)
On Martin Luther King Jr. day, the United States celebrates the man, his legacy and his call for a worldwide brotherhood of man. Dr. King understood the importance of working together beyond differences and demonstrated non-violent social action driven by love and peace.
In his final book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, he describes the challenge we face as a world community in ways that are still relevant today:
“We have inherited a large house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”
Even though he wrote these words in 1968, the message itself is timeless. Today, we continue to grapple with how to live together, figuring out the tougher topics of equality, fundamental values and rights, and unity amidst diversity.
The challenges the world community currently faces requires more, not less cooperation and collaboration from all the members of our diverse human family. Each and every culture and faith tradition has sought to encapsulate and pass down universal principles and shared values such as treating others with respect and kindness. Yet many times these have been distorted or misunderstood to be guidelines for only those within the identity lines of one’s own faith. There is an urgent need to acknowledge universal principles and moral guidelines to revolutionize the fate of our common “world house”.
In short, we must realize – and soon – that we are deeply interconnected as one global family. As Dr. King warned so prophetically:
“Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”
Throughout history, we have seen examples of inspired leadership in the lives of such figures as Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Rev. Martin Luther King., Jr. Each found inner resources to bear the weight of injustice. Each advanced a moral vision that overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles and then brought reconciliation through love and the spirit of forgiveness.
Gandhi’s march to the sea, King’s nonviolent civil disobedience, were innovative expressions of the transcendent vision expressed in America’s founding Declaration, that “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” These examples demonstrate that there are important universal truths, ideas that are not exclusive to one religion, nation, race, or culture. Peace needs such leaders who are driven by a vision to embrace all humanity and willingly commit their lives in pursuit of this vision.
Let us make this next year one where we can see through the lens that Martin Luther King once did – seeing the world in a familial vision and developing innovative new pathways to greater peace and prosperity. If we are all living in the “world house” together, we have to find a way to work together and to do it joyfully. To go one step further, inside this “world house”, lives a great big family, where are all connected as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandfathers and grandmothers.
To achieve lasting peace, this vision of “One Family Under God” cannot simply stay as a vision. It must be lived out in the everyday as a living, breathing reality. It takes each and every one of us to believe, understand and practice this mindset of love and kindness to all. With the right kind of role models and moral, innovative leaders, communities, nations and the world can change right before our eyes.
Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.