As dark a day in American history as one can remember. Forty-six years ago today, the Baptist preacher and human rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee:
I'll never forget hearing the news 46 years ago today that my friend, my mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated.— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) April 4, 2014
The day before he died, Dr. King delivered his final public address. His famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, as we've come to remember it, is hauntingly prescient. “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life,” he said that spring evening. “Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”
And he did.
The good works he was engaged in -- namely, abolishing injustice everywhere he saw it and securing human dignity -- required both moral courage and sacrifice on his part. Few would dispute, too, that the modern American civil rights movement could have progressed as far or as fast without his leadership. He could not have known, however, that so soon after delivering those remarks he would suffer martyrdom:
Word of his death spread like wild fire. More than 100 U.S. cities experienced rioting. One major city, however, did not. As it happens, Bobby Kennedy was campaigning for president in Indiana at the time. Speaking in Indianapolis that night, he broke the news to the unsuspecting crowd gathered to hear his campaign pitch, admonishing them to honor Dr. King's legacy not with violence but by adopting the principles he stood for: unity, tolerance, and peace:
The memorial in Washington, D.C. serves as a fitting reminder of what Dr. King stood for -- and accomplished -- during his short life.
May he still inspire us.