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There's work still to be done

Posted: January 27, 2011 11:37 a.m.
Updated: January 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.

In my column last week, I said that it’s not enough to simply honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday. We should make a conscious effort to also recognize the nameless, faceless and countless numbers of Americans who fought beside King for racial equality.

But after giving it some thought during the past few days, I’ve realized that one very important piece of information was excluded from my column.

Specifically, I never answered the question of how my generation, my parent’s generation and future generations can continue to keep King’s dream alive.

Sure, it’s one thing to sit around and quote his “I Have a Dream” speech on the third Monday in January each year, while remembering how hard things were for the generations of African Americans who suffered under oppression.

And don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But it’s another to actually continue to fulfill his dream of living in a world where all children are afforded the same opportunities.

A world where we all commit ourselves to public service, just as he did more than 50 years ago.

A world where we are relentless in our pursuit of progress for not just one group of Americans, but for all Americans.

So often, we find ourselves looking back at what happened 30, 50 and 70 years ago -- and that’s fine and completely necessary. It’s our history, and it should not be ignored.

But if we spend all of our time only focusing on the negatives of the past, it will be difficult to build a positive future for our children and grandchildren.

Sometimes I wonder what King would say about us if he were alive today.

Sure, we all have the right to vote right now. It’s a right that was afforded to the African American generation after years of struggle, and for many people, death.

But what does it mean to have that right, when we still overlook the fact that a sizable portion of Americans still refused to even bother rolling out of bed to go to the polls during this past midterm election?

And sure, we have the first African American president.

But does that mean that we can overlook the fact that our young African American men continue to drop out of high school at a growing rate each year?

Our nation has come a long way during the past several decades, but our work is far from over.

We have to continue to ensure that King’s legacy stays alive, that we continue to commit ourselves to public service.

We need to train more mentors and more leaders who will take King’s dream even one step further.

We need to train more mentors and leaders who will stand up for their communities, instead of only being concerned with themselves.

It’s not time for us to become complacent with what we have inherited.

It’s time that we continued King’s legacy, by shaping our next generation of leaders.

I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve been able to have so many opportunities afforded to me during my life -- opportunities that seemed like nothing more than a distant dream to previous generations.

And now that their dream has become our reality, it’s up to us to protect those advances for our future generations.

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