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  • Martin Luther King Holds These Truths

    On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood at the Lincoln Memorial and admonished America to return to its First Principles. In his I Have a Dream Speech, Dr King looked forward to the day that “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” He dreamt of the day when all “would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”

    Dr. King did not talk about remaking America. His dream was one “deeply rooted in the American dream,” as he said, and one that hearkened back to America’s founding principles. It was not a rejection of our past, but a vision of hope based on the principles of our past.

    Based on a series of arbitrary and unjust policies, African Americans were denied basic protections of the rule of law. Segregation prevented access to public accommodations, and many were reduced to poverty as a result of these injustices. Dr. King did not ask African-Americans to be satisfied with their condition, nor did he denounce America as an unjust nation. Instead, Dr. King assured his listeners that their circumstances were contrary to America’s creed. He used the central principle of the Declaration – natural human equality – as a rallying cry for civil rights.

    The principle of human equality is the foundation of the Declaration’s statement of natural rights. We are all equal because we all participate in a common human nature. Since we are all equal, we are all entitled to the basic rights that are derived from human nature. From these First Principles, Dr. King understood that all Americans—regardless of skin color—should have access to the rule of law, public accommodations, and thereby have the ability to pursue economic opportunities and, ultimately, happiness.

    But Dr. King did not think that the principle of equality meant that everyone should be treated the same. He sought equality of rights and equality before the law, not equality of outcomes or equality as a result. Instead, justice would be when people were judged “by the content of their character” rather than by arbitrary considerations such as skin color.  Dr. King did not mean that we should treat people of good character and bad character the same. Actual equality is achieved when arbitrary standards are replaced by meaningful criteria such as talent and virtue. A just country, then, is one in which people are rewarded for acting virtuously and producing success.

    The challenge of our time is quite formidable: we face an ever expanding government, exercising a bureaucratic tyranny that suffocates our self-government.  Let’s take Dr. King’s teaching to heart: let’s look to our First Principles to guide us through our current political problems and to restore this great country.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Martin Luther King Holds These Truths

    1. S. Chunkman (Atlanta says:

      Excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly.

      I pray someday that we all will be able to see MLK fully for what he was. We too often label people as a Black hero, a women's hero, etc, and fail to fully understand that the person we are talking about is an American hero. MLK is every bit as important to the evolution of the American Experiment as were any of our Founders. A great man and a powerful message filled with universal truths for all people everywhere.

      In spite of the anger and sadness that happened to this country in September 2001, I will never trade the experience of being an American on September 12th. Even if we soon snapped back to our own little worlds, for a time we realized King's Dream and we were a nation of unified Americans. Nothing more, nothing less.

    2. Billie says:

      Dr. King was before my time but as I've learned throughout my life, a man of great strength and endurance. In leaning of him he is an inspiration and admirable.

      It is a man's character that makes him that man and as each man is individual each is different in thoughts, talents and virtues. Skin color is irrelevant to the inner strength of the individual mankind.

      Although we all have standard abilities it is up to us as individuals, how we in our own individual way, carry them further.

      Dr. King was clear to see the fairness that people are hired on merit and quality of character, not a government degradation of a skin color quota system, where quality of the person has nothing to do with it.

      God Bless the Martin Luther King I have come to understand… just mentioned due to controversial understandings of Dr. King.

    3. Phil - Terre Haute, says:

      S. Chunkman said, "In spite of the anger and sadness that happened to this country in September 2001, I will never trade the experience of being an American on September 12th."

      Thank you for that. That sentence truly summed up what it means to be "American", and that statment really causes one to ponder the path we are on today. Thanks for helping me remember.

    4. Peter G. Stillman, P says:

      It is clear that MLK wanted a time when everyone was hired and treated on merit and quality of character. But it is not only government-sponsored segregation that prevents that from happening. I assume most people reading this oppose affirmative action; so, what do you see as the alternatives — how can it occur that people are treated on quality of character. This seems to me to be one case where getting the government out may help a little — segregation no longer officially enforced — but still leaves a big question, how can it happen that people are treated on quality of character.

    5. Billie says:

      Personal job interviews reveal the quality of a persons character. Background checks reveal the merit. What's the question?

    6. Jules Free, Kennesaw says:

      Speaking as an American of African descent, I have long believed that the Civil Rights movement of today has strayed far from Dr. Kings dream of seeing an America where ALL citizens are judged by the content of their character and where everyone has equal opportunity to either succeed or fail based on their own merits and efforts. Dr.King was not asking America to pay for its' sin of slavery by giving money, property, positions or jobs to black people as retribution. He was asking America to give black people the opportunity to show that they can do the same jobs and perfrom just as competently as anyone else if given the opportunity to do so. He was asking America to live up to its' founding principles, and I have to say that dream has been realized to a large degree. I think Dr. King would be proud of the progress over the last 40 years.

    7. Bobbie says:

      Peter, letters of reference and recommendations also show a persons character and merit…

      Jules, your comment is very nicely written. The American people of today, embrace and respect one another of all nationalities. The government and the media attempt to convince a false illusion that this isn't so…

    8. Reggie Greene / The says:

      What do you make of the recently disclosed story about the highly-regarded civil rights photographer, who was with Dr. King on the day that he was shot, and who was an informant providing information to the FBI regarding Dr. King and other civil rights activists?

    9. Kris, Phoenix AZ says:

      I think the problem here is that people cannot see the difference between party affiliation and political ideology. Conservatives often use the "content of their character" quote to legitimize the idea of Dr. King's "conservatism", but this is about where it stops.

      The fact is that Dr. King spoke favorably about socialism and was critical of capitalism and American militarism. He advocated radical redistribution of wealth in favor of the poor (an idea for which conservatives today have universally condemned Pres. Obama when he said he wanted to "spread the wealth around"). He was the first to institute an employment program for blacks in Montgomery that was akin to Affirmative Action. Dr. King had also read Marx while in college, and had several self-proclaimed socialists and at least three former members of the Communist Party USA in his inner circle. His closest advissor, Bayard Rustin, was a gay man, who, in the latter part of his career, was an ardant advocate of gay rights, as was Coretta Scott King. Dr. King also was a recipiant of the Margaret Sanger award from the pro-chioce Planned Parenthood Foundation. He was also a strong supporter of labor unions.

      Clearly, Dr. Kings actions are not in concert with a conservative ideology, and I think the attempt, especially by Glenn Beck, to turn Dr. King's ideology on it's head to fit that of a conservative is nothing more than wishful thinking.

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