It was in this environment that Dr. King lived, preached and worked. It is easy to bask in his glow four decades after his death. It took incredible bravery at the time to walk with him in support of his cause. And it wasn't only his cause. It was an American cause. He challenged this country to live up to its ideals and what he knew was its better nature, if it could escape from behind the barricade of prejudice and ignorance.
He said, "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
Two months after King's murder, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Kennedy echoed King when he said, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."
King sent out more than a ripple of hope, he sent out a flood. Without him there might not have been a civil rights movement, at least not one as effective in breaking the chains of injustice. That's a legacy that should make all Americans proud. That's why King deserves more than a national holiday. In what he said about race and brotherhood, he deserves to be followed.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Cal Thomas' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.