Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Celebrating the Drum Major for Justice

MLKiStock 666872670

January 15, is the birthdate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which will be observed in the United States as a federal holiday on Monday, January 17, 2022.

When we reflect on “the dash” between the year of his birth and the year of his death by assassination, there are literally decades to absorb from the words and deeds of the iconic Civil Rights leader. A prolific author, Dr. King’s last book was published in 1967; yet more than a half century later, its title raises a question still relevant today: Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community.

The measure of the man is powerfully unveiled in his sermon, “The Drum Major Instinct” in which he states that he wanted to be remembered as a “drum major for justice.” That self-ascribed moniker is reiterated in his final book with the following words.

“The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing to prevent us from paying adequate wages to schoolteachers, social workers and other servants of the public to insure that we have the best available personnel in these positions which are charged with the responsibility of guiding our future generations. There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citizen whether he be a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid or day laborer. There is nothing except shortsightedness to prevent us from guaranteeing an annual minimum—and livable—income for every American family. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from remolding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.”