Martin Luther King’s Gift to Obama
He has been gone now for more years than he lived but, on the birthday we celebrate today, Martin Luther King Jr. would have been only 80 years old.
Michelle and Barack Obama are doing community service in his honor and urging all Americans to do the same. In more ways than one, the inauguration of an African-American president tomorrow is part of his legacy.
Martin Luther King preached nonviolence to the oppressed. “Our weapon is love,” he told them, and he used it with stunning force.
At the dawn of TV, he brought into American homes images of peaceful Southern protesters beaten, driven with high-pressure hoses and arrested without fighting back. Their body rhetoric exposed racial hatred as never before.
Then, in 1966 Dr. King wrote for me about the apartment he had rented in Chicago’s slums to connect with gang members: “I was shocked at the venom they poured out against the world.”
He asked them to join Freedom Marches in Mississippi and they did in carloads, where “they were to be attacked by tear gas. They were to protect women and children with no other weapons but their own bodies…
“They learned in Mississippi and returned to teach in Chicago the beautiful lesson of acting against evil by renouncing force…
“And in Chicago the test was sterner. These marchers endured not only the filthiest kind of verbal abuse but also barrages of rocks and sticks and eggs and cherry bombs…”