On April 4, 1968, a hate-filled man assassinated a leader for all times who spoke with inspiration within the framework of faith, family and freedom — Dr. Martin Luther King.
Standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel outside Room 306 48 years ago in Memphis, the Baptist minister born in Atlanta had his life ended at a young and very influential 39 years of age. That life was a commitment to establishing opportunity for all, regardless of skin color.
On the rail outside that memorialized room at the National Civil Rights Museum (formerly the Lorraine Motel), a plaque is affixed with the inscription: "And they said one to another, behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him and we shall see what will become of his dreams." From the Old Testament, Genesis 37:20, the words parallel the "dreamer" Joseph whose brothers, driven by hate and envy, made an attempt to end his life after the youngest brother shared his dreams.
Focusing on that last phrase, "and we shall see what will become of his dreams," today's national holiday allows us to ask the question reflecting on those words, "What has become of the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?"
Yet another question has to be asked first: What exactly was the "dream" of the great civil rights leader and pastor?
Looking at his most famous speech, "I Have a Dream," delivered in Washington, D.C., on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the foundation of the speech was freedom — equal and God-given. Those words spoken to drive the aspirations of men and women of color were revolutionary in that window of time with police dogs, fire hoses and other acts of intimidation to deprive individuals of their dignity and respect, traits awarded at birth to humanity but to be protected as precious by the holder.
Specifically, Dr. King noted in his 1963 speech, " all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." Before hundreds of thousands, the respected leader continued, "It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Today, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy. The evil once perpetrated through racial discrimination and hateful prejudice is socially rejected, as it should be. But are people judged "by the content of their character?"
This more revealing question implies that one's character may not be acceptable or appropriate but is deemed politically incorrect. In some cases, this manufactured barrier serves to relinquish some of personal responsibility and integrity, regardless of race, gender, social or economic standing.
The wife of the late Dr. King, Coretta Scott King, wisely stated, "Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation."
Is freedom so elusive and exclusive that it has to be pursued and defended? Not at all!
Freedom is so worthy of all that humanity's heart naturally seeks it, yet the continuous effort to be positioned to earn its benefits is not prioritized by many who choose to settle for a less strenuous path.
Freedom resides among those who choose rightly and live accordingly. They serve as the tribute to Dr. King's legacy.
Robin Smith, a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, is owner of Rivers Edge Alliance.