My daughter reminded on Friday that today is a holiday, the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was born (or at least today we celebrate that birthday). So I asked her what she’d been taught about him in school.
Her response, verbatim: “That he was a hero. That he changed the world. That he said that people of different skins couldn’t play together, and that wasn’t fair. That violence is never the answer, that love is.”
Being the family we are, we’ve read a lot about different skin types, how people can look differently but love the same. We’ve read about compelling figures in world history, and we’ve talked about the contributions they’ve made. But, let’s be honest, to a 6-year old child, it can all run together a bit…
AbrahamLincolnRosaParksLouisPasteurJohnnyAppleseedHarrietTubman was a GOOD PERSON.
But I love that this man stood out to her, that she recognized him as the hero he was – she excitedly told me about the movie they saw about him in school and the books they read and all the pictures they looked at together…and then stopped her chattering for just a second to look up and ask me why my eyes were filling up with tears.
What can I say? Another first in her life, her first real passion for a person who inspired social change in this world. This is a particularly sweet first.
Like most kids her age, she draws and paints and crafts all the time. Martin Luther King Jr. has been a theme this past weekend, and when I saw her drawing another one this morning, it made me smile. If you look closely, you see that she writes, in her own particular spelling method, “Love is the answer” as the central theme of the piece :)
So I told her about one of my very favorite speeches about this man, from quite a contemporary figure, Barack Obama. He had this to say at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Groundbreaking Ceremony in November of 2006:
“Unlike the others commemorated in this place, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a president of the United States – at no time in his life did he hold public office. He was not a hero of foreign wars. He never had much money, and while he lived he was reviled at least as much as he was celebrated.
By his own accounts, he was a man frequently racked with doubt, a man not without flaws, a man who, like Moses before him, more than once questioned why he had been chosen for so arduous a task – the task of leading a people to freedom, the task of healing the festering wounds of a nation’s original sin.
And yet lead a nation he did. Through words he gave voice to the voiceless. Through deeds he gave courage to the faint of heart. By dint of vision, and determination, and most of all faith in the redeeming power of love, he endured the humiliation of arrest, the loneliness of a prison cell, the constant threats to his life, until he finally inspired a nation to transform itself, and begin to live up to the meaning of its creed.”
….That’s about as far as we got – you can imagine the stops & starts, “but what does that mean????” – but feel free to read the beautiful speech in its entirety here…