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Americans Can Learn About Unity from Martin Luther King Jr.

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Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the loudest voices of the Civil Rights Movement. He was a reverend with impressive speaking skills and a strong desire for justice, who played a prominent role in fighting for the rights of African Americans.  He was such an influential part of American history that his birthday became a national holiday.

Recently, I randomly stumbled upon a quote by King from one of his speeches in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1964. King declared, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

For some reason, this particular sentiment made me contemplate the state of our country and its citizens. America is incredibly polarized — to the point where it’s difficult to ignore. It often seems that those who differ politically from one another can never listen to each other.

After reading the quote from King, I was not only reminded of why he was so necessary during the 1960s, but why he is so important to America today. Although our country has undeniably improved since the Civil Rights era, King’s voice serves as a reminder of what was, as well as a symbol of what could be.

Unlike other figures and groups of the time, like Malcolm X or the Black Panthers, King urged for peaceful resolutions to injustice and called for unity among all Americans rather than supremacy. During a time when it was so easy to react to situations of bigotry with violent actions, he was steadfast in not displaying aggression.

King displayed true courage. He managed to fight for what was right even when it was easier to do what was wrong. Instead of giving up, he inspired a broken nation with phrases of hope such as, “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.”

Americans could learn many things from his legacy, but I think that our country could particularly benefit from his message of unity.

Even though it may be easy to get aggravated with those who disagree with us politically, we must remember that if we don’t at least try to converse with one another, then the polarization in our country will only worsen.

Our country must also learn that people are individuals not members of a collective group identity. The false narrative that group identities should be valued over personal identities must be extinguished.

King exclaimed in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” In other words, personal judgements should not be based on someone’s “group” identity, they should be based a person’s individual personality and values.

The answer to our problems is not to avoid one another — it’s to actively discuss our individuality and differences. Miniscule issues like skin color and sexual orientation are completely unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

At the end of the day, a country will fail if its citizens see one another as races or political parties, rather than individuals. America has to listen to the Reverend King’s advice before we are too broken to mend: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Header Credit: Wikimedia Commons

About the Writer
Riley Johanson, Editor-in-Chief

Riley Johanson is a Sophomore at Livermore High School in her second year of Journalism. Riley was the Opinions Editor for The Torch last year and is now...

1 Comment

One Response to “Americans Can Learn About Unity from Martin Luther King Jr.”

  1. Teri Lambert on January 15th, 2018 12:54 pm

    As your grandmother , this piece makes me incredibly proud. As an American, this piece reminded me that I need to be willing to have hard conversations with people who think differently than me, I need to listen. I have been so angry at one man, who happens to be our president, that I havent been willing to listen to others. That just makes me part of the problem, instead of part of the solution. Thanks Riley, on this day especially for such a good thought provoking read!

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