Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never ran for public office. He never said to another, “Vote for me.” Martin Luther King didn’t choose to lead the nation’s civil rights movement: it chose him. Yet in the life he lived his impact on our country and the world is immeasurable.
Monday we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. If he were still alive, he would have turned 93 today. What can we learn from this amazing man?
In 1958, sixty four years ago, Dr. King said, “I neither started the protest nor suggested it. I simply responded to the call of the people for a spokesman.” But what a spokesman he was!
It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, December 5, 1955, four days after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. Earlier that day, Ms. Parks was found guilty for her failure to move back on the bus.
A group of pastors and community leaders gathered to make plans for a mass meeting that evening to discuss the Montgomery bus boycott that had started that morning. Dr. King attended as just another pastor wanting to end the injustice in Montgomery.
The group didn’t even have a name. After a discussion, those gathered decided on the name Montgomery Improvement Association. The group then decided it needed officers. The floor was then opened for nomination for president.
From Dr. King’s own words, “As soon as Bennett had opened the nominations for president, Rufus Lewis spoke from the far corner of the room: ‘Mr. Chairman, I would like to nominate Reverend M.L. King for president.’ The motion was seconded and carried, and in a matter of minutes I was unanimously elected.
“The action had caught me unawares. It had happened so quickly that I did not even have time to think it through. It is probable that if I had, I would have declined the nomination. They probably picked me because I had not been in town long enough to be identified with any particular group or clique...”
“I went home for the first time since seven that morning and found Coretta relaxing from a long day of telephone calls and general excitement. After we had brought each other up to date on the day’s developments, I told her, somewhat hesitantly- not knowing what her reaction would be- that I had been elected president of the new association.
“I need not have worried. Naturally surprised, she still saw that responsibility had fallen on me, I had no alternative but to accept it. She did not need to be told that we would now have even less time together, and she seemed undisturbed at the possible danger to all of us in my new position. ‘You know’ she said quietly, ‘that whatever you do, you have my backing.’
“Reassured, I went to my study and closed the door. The minutes were passing fast. I had only twenty minutes to prepare the most decisive speech of my life. I became possessed by fear. Now I was faced with the inescapable task of preparing, in almost no time at all, a speech that was expected to give a sense of direction to a
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