Our nation’s most challenging internal struggle—and finest victory—was eradicating the legacy of slavery and segregation. The principles that guided the nation through that critical time, so powerfully articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., offer a guiding light for today.
The task of teaching those unifying, non-violent principles to a new generation is urgent and lies on the shoulders of the current generation which has time and again gravitated toward collective wisdom and come up with solutions that transcend politics and violence.
But too many students have not been equipped for responsible citizenship, let alone effective leadership. So we have a relative dearth of leaders who can call our society to a higher standard like Dr. King.
There are no panaceas. But the most important action we can take is to commit ourselves to inculcate social and civic responsibility in our young, thereby equipping them for a future of service and leadership.
Particularly important is actively modeling, and not just discussing, these principles. Which makes the example of Dr. King so important.
Dr. King eloquently appealed to our better natures. His message transcended our differences. But he also lived his principles, which gave his words special power.
Dr. King was more than visionary. He was also an activist and organizer. He did not leave the hard work of doing to others but acted to change the world. He also pursued his passion for justice with a commitment to nonviolence that inspired millions.
Today’s young people desperately need to hear this unifying message.
To that end, the Andrew Young Foundation is collaborating with Good of All to launch a scholarship program for students determined to follow in Dr. King’s footsteps. We hope to teach the coming generation how to take up the great challenges of our age and advance his principles. These scholarships will go to students who, like Dr. King, dream of being ambassadors of non-violence and making not just the nation but the world a better place.
At a dark moment in the struggle against injustice and violence in an earlier era, Dr. King declared: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
These same enduring principles can help us to overcome darkness in our era. We can shine an educational light that can help to bring healing to our troubled world. Teaching Dr. King’s principles will empower the coming generation to create a better future for us all.
Ambassador Andrew Young is the former mayor of Atlanta and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Dr. Matthew Daniels is the founder of Good of All (www.mlkcurriculum.org)