MCRD PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- January 15 would have been the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 74th birthday. Monday marked the 20th anniversary of celebrating National Martin Luther King Jr. Day in America.
The legislation for the holiday did not pass until 1983 during President Ronald Reagan's administration, some 15 years after King's assassination.
Therefore, it has actually been 35 years since his tragic end, sufficient time to let his original dream slightly dwindle for some Americans.
Of course, everyone remembers his legacy and his speeches. Yet his life's work, the sole idea he strived to instill in the American people, has become cloudy and unclear throughout the nation today as celebrations and memorials held on this day remain almost entirely segregated.
The day has almost surely become thought of as the "black holiday," when in actuality, in order to properly honor King and his contribution to America, we should all be coming together as one, exemplifying his lifelong dream.
By continuing in this present manner, we are subconsciously sending a message that in order to fully understand and appreciate King's sacrifices and contributions, you have to be black. This could not be further from the truth. We are all Americans. It takes every American of every race to make his dream become reality. By not recognizing this, we are letting the dream die.
Out of the countless speeches given by King during his lifetime, one in particular best illustrates this idea of uniting America. On Independence Day, 1965, he spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, uttering these immortal words.
"One day in America, I hope that we will become one big family of Americans," he said. "Not white Americans, not black Americans, not Jewish or gentile Americans, not Irish or Italian Americans, not Mexican Americans, not Puerto Rican Americans, but just Americans - one big family of Americans."
Though, we have come a long way since King's time, unfortunately, we still have a very long way to go.
"To think what life would be like today without the sacrifices and contributions from King, is almost unbearable," said Col. Patrick Donahue, Depot Chief of Staff, at the Depot Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service Jan. 15.
America would be in a sad state had it not been for King. Blacks, whites, yellows and reds would all feel the negative effects of his absence. King was not just an activist for black Americans, he was an advocate for all Americans.
He recognized that had we continued on the path we were on, we would ultimately face ruin. He stepped up and accepted the burden of pointing out all that was wrong with our nation at that time.
"When he said, 'A man should not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character,' he was merely stating the obvious," said Lt. Cmdr. Ted Crandall, 1st RTBn. chaplain, who was the guest speaker at the memorial service. "No one should have even had to have said that. King took on the burden of taking the first step to equality, and for such, he suffered, was terrorized, and ultimately gave his life. He knew that it was better to wage war in an effort to achieve justice, than to sit by silent and do nothing, accepting things for what they are."
Now, the burden is on us to continue the fight for equality, if not for justice, then to make sure that King's sacrifice was not in vain. Now that he is gone, it's up to us, all Americans, to continue to strive to make his dream become a reality.