Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Message

January 12, 2012

On Monday January 16, we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, the champion of civil rights, equality, and economic and social justice.  It’s a day off from the office, but it should not be a day off from reflecting on the principles Dr. King advocated and died for.

In many ways, the mission of ACF mirrors Dr. King’s crusade, and that’s something to be proud of.  Our agency’s very reason for being is to protect and enhance the social and economic well-being of society’s most vulnerable—the poor, the young, the disabled, the displaced.  Our programs carry on the hallowed legacy of generations of Americans who realized that the ultimate mark of integrity is to care for the least among us.

We are living in a time when Dr. King’s message resonates anew.  Even as we are slowly emerging from a terrible economic downturn, one in five children in our country still lives below the poverty line.  The child poverty rate in America is measures higher than that of other industrialized nations.

“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age,” Dr. King reminded us. 

Every day what you do affirms Dr. King’s most cherished values.  Here at ACF we are fighting to make the programs that were so hard-won sustainable for the future.   Undeniably, we have made progress, but there is still much more to do before we reach Dr. King’s goal of eradicating poverty and creating equal opportunity for all.  Nevertheless, we will never stop believing, as did Dr. King, that people in poverty can, with the right support, lift themselves up and fulfill their fondest dreams.

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing the play “Mountain Top,” an inspiring dramatization of Dr. King’s life.  The play gave me a fresh appreciation for Dr. King’s struggles and achievements.  Here was a man who fought temptation and weakness, but who truly changed the world. 

As we all know, he had a dream.  But there’s an interesting, little-known anecdote about his most famous speech.  More than 48 years ago, Dr. King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and addressed 200,000 people.  His speech wasn’t that stirring at first.  But then something happened.

The great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out to him, “Doc, tell them about the dream.”

And then that wonderful preacher, launched, without notes, into something he had said in small groups earlier that day.

“I have a dream,” he told the crowd.

It is our obligation to keep that dream alive.

On Martin Luther King Day, I urge you to honor Dr. King’s life and achievements by taking part in projects that enrich your community—paint a school, clean up a vacant lot, make lunches at a homeless shelter.  There are thousands of ways you can help.  To learn about service opportunities in your area, go to www.mlkday.gov.

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