The night before Dr. King was assassinated, he stood in the pulpit at the Mason Temple in Memphis, TN, talking to two thousand people, insisting that striking sanitation workers be treated with dignity.
In one of his final sentences, he said, “Let us move on in these powerful days — these days of challenges to make America what it ought to be.”
I think about his words a lot. The challenge to make America what it ought to be.
And I think about what the Founding Fathers wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
America has never lived up to that promise — not for Dr. King, not for people of color, or women, LGBTQ folks, or many other marginalized communities. But it ought to, and that’s our challenge.
We ought to live in an America where every single solitary person, when given half a chance, no matter where they’re from, can accomplish anything if they work at it. An America where nothing is beyond their capacity. But we don’t.
We live in an America where our president — the divider in chief — singles out, scapegoats, and demonizes anyone different in creed or color or conviction.
An America where the president makes a moral equivalence between those who spread hate and those who oppose it, saying there are “very fine people on both sides.”
We have to challenge these forces of hate, and stand up and simply say what the vast majority of Americans agree to : this is not our America, and this is not who we are.
We have to remind ourselves every day, especially in this election, to remember who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe.
And even more so, we have to remind ourselves that there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy. We have to fight for it. We have to defend it. We have to earn it.
That’s the challenge Dr. King gave us — to fight for what America ought to be. It was just 56 years ago when he told us about his dream, one where Americans would finally rise up and fulfill the meaning of our creed.
Some days it feels like we’re letting that dream slip, but I’m still more optimistic than ever that Dr. King’s dream is within our reach.
Even while we’re in a battle for the soul of our nation, we’ve never had a future that’s more promising. And it’s time for us all to roll up our sleeves and show the world what we stand for.
We choose hope over fear, truth over lies, and, yes, unity over division.
Dr. King’s work isn’t finished, and it’s on us to continue his fight. I believe these are powerful days, and we can’t give up hope.
I know there’s nothing we can’t do if we do it together. And we won’t rest until justice truly rings out for all.