At two local services to mark the birthday of Martin Luther King yesterday the speakers focused less on the man himself and more on the power of individuals to force change. At Stanford’s Memorial Church, Rev. John Harrison reminded those of us who live in comfort to “see” those who are not so fortunate.
LaDoris Cordell, MC at the Palo Alto community celebration in the afternoon, reminded the audience about the four young freshmen at North Carolina A&T who asked themselves in 1959 “At what point does a moral man act against injustice?” and shortly thereafter, began challenging the Jim Crow policy at the local Woolworth lunch counter.
In his keynote during that same program, Clayborne Carson, founding director of the Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute at Stanford and the nation’s preeminent King scholar, talked about how in 1963 it was high school students revived a flagging campaign in Birmingham, Ala. He credited those teenagers for the success of that campaign, which was a turning point for the Civil Rights Movement and for King’s rise to prominence.
It would have been hard to imagine in 1963 that there would be a national holiday in honor of King or that the White House, occupied by its first black president, would employ something called the Internet to encourage citizens to honor King by doing good works.
But here we are in 2014 acknowledging our progress, but not for too long. There is still so much yet to be done.