Today is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Were he alive today, 49 years after his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, he would be 88 years of age.
This weekend our nation will observe its annual commemoration of this great man's life. It comes at a time when national and international events have provoked a lot of discussion about what Dr. King would say or do in response to those events if he were alive today.
An entire generation of Americans has grown up associating Dr. King almost exclusively with his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech (which I copyrighted; it is now one of the most valuable intellectual properties of the King estate). Few people today know of his opinions on issues like poverty and income inequality, or of his early support for Israel and his public opposition to the war in Vietnam.
Although I have no polling data to support my belief, I estimate that he enjoyed an approval rating of 80 percent or higher at the time of his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, but that his approval rating had probably dipped to 40 percent or lower by the time he was assassinated five years later.
The night before he was assassinated, Dr. King spoke at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, before a large gathering in support of a strike by sanitation workers for better wages and working conditions. Among other things he said:
We've got some difficult days ahead. ... Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I am not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.
We are still trying to GET TO THE 'Promised Land'. We have had some RECENT setbacks, but we have made GREAT GAINS as well. Let's not FORGET what Dr. King's DREAM was all about. IT CAN HAPPEN... we have to LET IT..
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Dr. King. It's because of you I can WRITE THIS today and for that and so many other things, I THANK YOU....