Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy

I have been thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. as we approach the holiday named in his honor. The 1/9 issue of "Time" magazine contains some very revealing excerpts from the book; At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968, the final volume of Pulitzer prizewinner Taylor Branch's three part history of King and the movement he led. On February 4, 1968, King preached a sermon in which he said, "Every now and then I think about my own death." Then he began to imagine his funeral where he hoped that someone would mention that "Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others.....Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum for justice! Say that I was a drum major for peace-I was a drum major for righteousness-and all the other shallow things will not matter."
Martin overcame many obstacles to make his mark on the world. He never had the financial resources and the political power of those who opposed him. Yet, he was victorious because of his sense of purpose and determination. Sometimes in life that is all we have in our corner and it is worth more than we can imagine. Knowing what is important in our life, our values, our "higher calling" can help us overcome the most powerful opposition.

This dynamic is dramatically depicted in the 2004 film, Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood directed this story about an aging trainer, Frankie Dunn, played by Eastwood himself, and a determined young woman, Maggie, played by Hilary Swank. There is a powerful scene where Maggie is fighting for the first time under Dunn's supervision. Hilary Swank's character is getting beaten badly by her opponent, the bell rings and she goes to her corner where she and Eastwood have this exchange.
Maggie: She's tough. I can't get inside. I can't get close enough to hit her.
Dunn: You know why that is?
Maggie: Why?
Dunn: She's a better fighter then you are, that's why. She's younger, stronger, more experienced.
Now what are you gonna do about it?
As the bell rings, Maggie returns to the ring more determined then ever and soon knocks her opponent out.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday we remember that Martin left a legacy because his spirit and faith would not allow him to accept defeat.

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