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County Corner: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Ronald G. Rios, director of the Middlesex County Board of Commissioners

Jan. 16 is a significant day. It is the celebration of one of our greatest leaders of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We celebrate his legacy on this day and encourage others to work to improve their communities and spread his message.

Dr. King was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist who led the civil rights movement from the 1950s to his untimely death in 1968 at age 39. He used nonviolent tactics in lobbying for the civil rights of our citizens and his work helped end the segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States. Due to Dr. King’s work for civil rights, two acts were put into place: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Dr. King’s achievements during his life are amazing. He became the face of the civil rights movement and demonstrated the power of nonviolent resistance. At age 35, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to racial injustice ― making him, at that time, the youngest man and only the second African American to win the prize. In January 1964, Time Magazine named Dr. King “Man of the Year” for 1963. He was the first African American to receive the honor. These are only a few of his accomplishments ― there are so many more, such as the speeches and books that he wrote.

One of Dr. King’s most noted achievements was his nonviolent march on Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. This march consisted of 250,000 people and was known as the Great March. It was at this march that Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. If you have never read the words in this speech, please take the time to do so. You will see what Dr. King was truly about.

One of my favorite quotes from this speech is: “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.” This quote resonates with me on so many levels, but especially because I have children and grandchildren, and like any parent or grandparent, it is my hope that they will always be judged based on their actions and intentions ― not by their appearance. This is my hope for every child.

Dr. King faced many challenges throughout his life and career, but he never stopped fighting to end racism. On Jan. 16, there will be events honoring his legacy. Take the time to attend one, if you can, or speak with your children about who Dr. King was and how his teachings changed the way we perceive each other.

There is one thing that Dr. King stated that leaves an impression and that is: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We still have a long way to go in continuing to make the changes that Dr. King dreamed of for our nation.

On January 16, we should remember what he tried to achieve and the message he wanted us all to learn. We should take time to reflect on how we can live together equally and without discrimination and how we can continue Dr. King’s mission.

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