Those who worked with Dr. King on a daily basis remember more than the fiery speeches that captured a nation’s attention and stirred its moral conscience. They remember a soft spoken, thoughtful man who was keenly focused on the task at hand. They remember a man who worked late into the night and rose early; someone who came across as genuine and accessible to the people around him. Dr. King didn’t seek the spotlight as so many would-be celebrities do today. He was thrust into the spotlight by the demands of his times. He didn’t hunger for attention, but he used the attention directed at him to further the cause he fought for, not his career.
Think about King’s quality of leadership in light of the petty politics we observe today, where members of both parties are willing to sacrifice principles and progress to score cheap points with the special interest groups. While we can’t know for certain what Dr. King would have said about the economy, healthcare, taxes or Social Security, we can be confident he would not have switched positions on these issues for opportunistic reasons. He would likely have had some choice words for the numerous elected officials caught in ethics and corruption scandals over the past months and years as well.
With today’s emphasis on political correctness, it is easy to forget how often Dr. King spoke of “moral law,” “natural law,” or even “God’s law” in his writings and speeches. Would such a man have embraced the current wholesale removal of God from the public square by secularist totalitarians? I think not. Dr. King was radically different from leaders in either party today. He was committed to making things happen. His ideology was not self-centered or self-serving.
It is difficult for us to remember the raw physical courage it took during that era; members of the movement were not only being arrested and thrown in jail, but murdered on a regular basis. Most of us remember Medgar Evers and Dr. King, but how many remember Ben Chester White, Wharlest Jackson or Oneal Moore? We must pray that God will raise up a new generation of leaders who will have as much intellectual courage as our ancestors. We need innovators, businessmen, and problem solvers who will be willing to give their lives to the cause of restoring America to everything God has called it to be.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.