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We must keep moving

| Friday, January 23, 2015

He would have turned 86 this year.

Monday was Martin Luther King Day. Every year it is a day to celebrate a man who did more than any of us can imagine in a lifetime, and if it wasn’t for his assassination it is more than reasonable to think he would still be working today in the name of equal rights for everyone. I certainly like to think that he wouldn’t have stopped working for the advancement of civil rights and equality for everyone.

One of the more famous photos in connection to Notre Dame is the photo of Dr. King standing alongside Father Hesburgh, arms locked in brotherhood and solidarity, as they sang “We Shall Overcome” during a 1964 civil rights rally at Soldier Field in Chicago. It’s a rather ubiquitous photo, located in several places around campus. Not only is it a ubiquitous photo, but it is also placed in areas that have a lot of human activity – Lafortune Student Center, for example.

The prevalence of this reminder is a lot more important than one might think.

It can be easy to see the accomplishments those brave men and women made all those years ago and assume that they accomplished the lion’s share of the work. Because of their actions, one can assume that the world is a much better place to live in. The “hard” part is over.

While, in a way, that is true, one only needs to look at the news to see that there is still plenty more that needs to be done. The “hard” part may be over. But the journey is far from over.

The reverence given to the memory of Dr. King and those who struggled for civil rights alongside him is absolutely a necessity because what they struggled for is a right that all human beings deserve to be treated as a human.

But human society and progress is not necessarily about reaching a destination and then resting on the laurels of those that came before us; rather, it is a continuous journey. It’s about continually striving and pushing and struggling to meet the great iniquities of our time, work to overcome them and go forth with the belief and conviction to do our part in our lifetime. It doesn’t have to be one grand effort of great and mighty pomp and circumstance; if, like a wise man once said, at the end of the day we’ve done to the best of our abilities something to make others a little happier and ourselves a little happier, then we’ve done something to be proud of.

But, of course, that requires taking the step to do something in the first place.

If Dr. King were alive today, I’d like to think that he’d be flattered at the heightened place he holds in our collective conscious for the things he did during his lifetime. But, at the same time, I get the feeling that he wouldn’t take too much time to be flattered before he’d get right back to work. And neither should we. Working for civil rights and happiness for all people no matter what their skin color, personal or religious creed or orientation is something we can all do.

It can be scary to push for these things. And it certainly won’t be easy. But it is the right thing to do.

And at the end of the day, it’s better to do right and risk the consequences, than to not do anything at all.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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