Fifty years ago today, America lost one of her greatest leaders, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like so many who were alive on April 4, 1968, I clearly remember the shock I felt when I heard that Dr. King had been assassinated. On that fateful day, we lost a man of deep faith and extraordinary vision who inspired millions to “make America a better nation.”
I often think of Dr. King’s words, especially when confronting the problems that continue to plague our great nation: education inequality; welfare dependence; family breakdown; the loss of faith; and the coarsening of our culture. If Dr. King could be with us today, would he applaud us for realizing his vision? Or would he urge us to press on? In my heart, I know it would be the latter.
But in that realization is hope. The problems Dr. King cared about so deeply are the same ones we care about today. We know every child—regardless of their race, age, income or address—deserves an excellent education. We know every family deserves to be whole, healthy, and empowered to reach their hopes and dreams. We know every parent deserves to realize the dignity of work and the respect of their children. And we know every life, from the youngest to the oldest, deserves to be protected and honored.
These things we know, just as Dr. King did a half century ago. Let’s honor this tragic anniversary and his shining legacy by dedicating ourselves to ridding our nation of these old problems with new solutions that work. Let’s rise up and realize the future Dr. King knew could be ours.
At the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King stood before the nation and proclaimed, “Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children.” He was right. Now is the time. So, in his memory, let’s recommit our nation to achieving his inspirational vision.
Kay Coles James is the president of The Heritage Foundation. You can follow Kay on Twitter @KayColesJames.