Yesterday was the birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Born Jan. 15, 1929, had he lived, he would have been 91 years of age. Today’s column shines a spotlight on Dr. King, a few of his achievements, and a quote from one of his lesser-known speeches.

SCLC

In 1957, Dr. King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization designed to provide new leadership for the civil rights movement.

The Nobel Peace Prize

In 1964, for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in America, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Georgia-born minister was 35 years of age and became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize.

A federal holiday to honor Dr. King

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that created a federal holiday to honor King. First commemorated in 1986, the holiday is observed on the third Monday in January, close to Dr. King’s Jan. 15 birthday. George Washington is the only other American to have had his birthday observed as a national holiday.

Dr. Bernice King honors her father’s legacy

In 2019, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as part of their Global Forum, hosted the Community of Conscience in Washington, D.C. Dr. Bernice King, CEO of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, gave a speech in which she honored her father’s legacy.

In her speech, she said, “If hate, violence, bigotry, bitterness, and antisemitism are to be defeated in our world, we must open up channels of constructive communication and move in the direction of dignified dialogue where we talk with each other rather than damnifying dialogue where we talk at each other.”

A lesser-known speech

In 1962, at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech in which he said, “I am convinced that men hate each because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.”

Dr. Bernice King emphasized the importance of constructive communication. She advocates that we talk with each other and not at each other. Her father, in his 1962 speech, reasoned through why it is men hate each other. It is exceedingly significant that they both consider communication of vital importance.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities in Rome

The MLK Commission of Rome and Floyd County worked to organize the many activities planned for this year’s celebration, here in Rome. They’ve worked very hard and these are wonderful events and I’m sure the community will attend them. The activities include a fashion show and talent show, a Family Prayer Breakfast at Lovejoy Baptist Church, and an ecumenical service at Garden Lakes Baptist Church.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, at 11 a.m., at the corner of First Avenue and Broad Street, people from northwest Georgia will gather to participate in the Freedom March. The march will end at the Rome City Auditorium. Participants will then gather in the auditorium for keynote speaker attorney Meredith Lilly, director of external affairs for DeKalb County. Following this, lunch will be served at the Rome Civic Center on Jackson Hill.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2020. As we honor the memory of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we would do well to remember the words of Dr. Bernice King (above-referenced). In so doing we should well remember the importance of constructive communication. I am optimistic that would be fundamental in continuing to move forward in the new year and beyond.

Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, a writer, avid cyclist, history enthusiast and ardent reader of Southern fiction. She is the author of the new book, “People, Places, and Memories of Rome.” Readers may email her at pamterrellwalker@gmail.com.

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