Even though it was his birthday yesterday . . . Happy belated Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday! Many people all over America have the day off today, but I hope that people will remember why we celebrate the man’s birthday. (Even though, in Alabama, today is officially jointly an acknowledgment of both King’s and Robert E. Lee’s birthdays . . .)
King encouraged all of us to live up to our moral potential. In America, we are often encouraged to live up to our career-success potential or to economic potential, but less often are we encouraged to live up to our moral potential. Where the drive to succeed is important, as is the drive to have the safety, security and comfort that money provides, being a good person is also important— caring about other people’s well-being like you care about your own.
Too often Martin Luther King, Jr.’s critics have focused on his shortcomings, the fact that he was not perfect, not a saint himself. I don’t think he ever claimed to be. He asked us all to try to be better people. I don’t think his rhetoric ever pointed to a conclusion like “If you work hard, one day you’ll be as good as me.”
On this holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., take at least a little bit of time to think about your own life – as I am going to do today – and consider the possibilities of how to live up to your own moral potential.