The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Monday, January 20, we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was struck down by a sniper’s bullet on April 4, 1968. If he had lived he would be 85, but he was only 39 when assassinated. Still, we should consider what he was able to accomplish in his relatively short life. Our nation was shown a better way to live and treat others because of his words and actions. As younger generations, both black and white, learn of this “larger than life” figure only through recorded historical accounts or the ever decreasing first hand accounts of persons who knew him, I can only hope we will continue to honor him as one of the greatest persons of the 20th Century (or of any century). While a national holiday exists to commemorate his life, it would be unfortunate if it became nothing more than just another “day off” for the majority of Americans.

I have always believed one of the best ways to honor Dr. King on this special day is to do something of value in his memory. For that reason, my MOS chorus keeps its regular rehearsal schedule on MLK Day each year. Always at this particular rehearsal I am reminded how important it is for us to learn and perform music that moves us to a higher plane. I remember especially a concert several years ago in which Moses Hogan was our guest conductor. The concert was entitled Songs of Hope and Freedom and was comprised primarily of African-American spirituals, mostly arranged by Mr. Hogan. We were especially fortunate to have Moses Hogan conduct MOS since he died unexpectedly less than a year later. Also present at that concert was Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. King. One of the pieces on the program was a tribute to the life and work of Dr. King, and Mrs. King graciously accepted our invitation to attend. What a special evening that was!

Dr. King’s words have always been very moving to me and I offer several of his quotes below.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere .”

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

“Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”

“It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”

These are just a sampling of hundreds of beautiful quotes from Dr. King. May we never forget the greatness of this man who once walked among us.