Jan. 15 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States, a day to celebrate and honor the life of the late Reverend Doctor King (1929-68). 

Reverend Doctor King was a Baptist minister and Civil Rights leader, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  He was admired not only for his courage and commitment to the struggle for Civil Rights, but also for his ability to encourage others and articulate the need for people to participate in the struggle and/or speak out against miscarriages of justice.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (Strength to Love, 1963)

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” (“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963)

In some of the footage of Dr. King during his marches, he appears to be nervous. 

Why would he not be?  He was well aware of the hatred and bigotry that existed (past and present) in the United States of America, but he was committed to the Civil Rights cause and strengthened by his religion.

In one particular speech, Dr. King gives voice to his faith and his belief in a hereafter.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I’m not concerned about that now…I’ve seen the Promised Land. 

“I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.  And I’m happy tonight. 

“I’m not worried about anything.  I’m not fearing any man.  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”  (Speech made the night before his assassination in Memphis)

I was visiting my mother when the TV announced the assassination of Dr. King. 

His death makes me think of words to a song my mother loved to sing: “It Is Well With My Soul” (penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss)

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul…”

The world lost a “drum major for peace” when Dr. King died. 

If the soul is considered the spiritual (moral) part of a human, every human should ask when faced with the need to speak out against hatred and abuse: “If I am silent, is it well with my soul?”

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...