This month we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who in 1963 so eloquently described a future for African-Americans in which they could enjoy the full rights and privileges of their citizenship. Roadblocks continue to obstruct the path of many for a full enjoyment of those rights.
As we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, it is appropriate to take time to reflect on our own hopes for America and how we can contribute to making Dr. King’s vision a reality. Real change takes place in our own hearts. If we have enjoyed the benefits of a more privileged life experience, we often take that privilege for granted. How can we develop a better understanding of the unmet needs of those around us? Probably most important is to get to know people whose life experiences are different from our own. Learning firsthand about their aspirations and challenges helps us to identify with their struggles and to see the impediments they face with our own eyes. Even as our country seems racked by division and bitter partisanship, we see hopeful signs of a more inclusive and prosperous future. There is increased representation of minorities in all walks of life. Many people of color have overcome hurdles to achieve great success. So many of us, for example, cried tears of joy to see Barack Obama elected President.
What are my own hopes for America in the future? I long to see a society where we have genuine respect and concern for one another, regardless of our personal status. I hope for a day when most Americans honestly acknowledge the overwhelming problems we face, among them climate change and the inequitable treatment of many of our citizens. I wish for a world in which we do not use military attacks to solve human problems.
When we have respect for one another and face our challenges together, we have real hope that our joint efforts will bring about some measure of success. Progress comes one small step at a time, but with our commitment, that progress will come.