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The PURSUIT of Happiness: Celebrating the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, I heard a radio talk show guest say that Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. was in a sense “a founding father of 20th Century America.” Without question, he was a captain who shaped the direction of the country. It is not easy to speak truth when adherence to tradition is fierce, and those who stand in opposition to structural indifference and injustice are often the targets of violent reaction.

Every generation in every nation has its moment to break from such traditions and guide society forward. In this country, Thomas Jefferson and his Committee of Five wrote these words that Dr. King echoed in his I Have a Dream Speech:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Later, in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution they spoke of their desire to “form a more perfect union.” In both cases they make it clear that there is to be an active participatory process. Citizens were not expected to simply be happy, they were to pursue happiness. And the government was not a static structure; We the People should always be pressing forward to create “a more perfect union.”

During his very brief life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently voiced principles of humanity, justice and equality. And like the original founding fathers, King's mastery of language is profound.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Immediately after the September 11th attacks, there was a bonding amongst the people of New York City and across the country. At that time, a public service announcement from the Ad Council titled E Pluribus Unum celebrated the many faces that call this country home. It is as powerful today as it was in 2001.

In remembering the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, it is important to celebrate the core values and diversity of America. However, it's also critical to engage with others. These acts affirm not only your own humanity, but provide the chance to create a more perfect Union.

Make it a point to escape your comfort zone. Talk to someone who sees the world differently from you, or one that you define as “other.” Equally important, take the time to listen to them; take the time to truly understand their point of view.

Dr. King’s life affirmed how the world can be shaped by one person speaking-up and taking a stand. Today, let that be you!

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