Many underestimate power of nonviolent method of change
All too many of the so-called "great" people of history that have been remembered down through the ages have been men of arms who either successfully defended nations or expanded empires through warfare. This emphasis on force to achieve ends seems to be part of the nature of humankind.
Sometimes the ends are good, but often they are not.
A very few people in history have achieved their goals through different means peaceful protest. The most notable worldwide is probably India's charismatic leader Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi.
Another is the man we officially honor each year on this day in America.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and civil rights leader, shared Gandhi's believe in the power of nonviolence and he used that power for one of the great achievements in our history.
Although a man of peace, King was nevertheless a fighter a true warrior for human rights. He is most closely associated with the civil rights drive for blacks, but King's focus went beyond one race.
The words he is most remembered for were spoken in 1963: "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"
Many view those who advocate non-violence as being weak and ineffective. Even some within the civil rights movement doubted King's methods. But the great civil rights leader rejected those who favored militancy.
He continued to preach nonviolence. "Nonviolence can touch men where the law cannot reach them," he said, because it stirs the consciences of the "great decent majority" of people.
He had no illusions that a price would have to be paid for the peaceful protests. "The Negro all over the South must come to the point that he can say to his white brother: 'We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not hate you, but we will not obey your evil laws. We will soon wear you down by pure capacity to suffer!'"
He also had no illusions about his own fate. As a student of Gandhi, he knew that success would breed fear and hatred among those desperate to stop change, and their answer would not be nonviolent.
The fact that King paid the same price as Gandhi to be assassinated by his enemies is a testament to how truly effective his battle for rights became. His legacy lives on to this day and America is a much better place for his sacrifice.