I was born in 1969. I am of the first generation for whom the life of Martin Luther King Jr. has often been considered history rather than a lesson in how to proceed in the world. In our zeal to honor his work we have too frequently represented it as past rather than as prelude.
It is common on the anniversary of his birthday to wonder what he would say to us if he were here. Today I will not speculate. Instead, I will take a try at what I would say to him.
First, I would say thank you.
Second, I would say that we miss him.
Third, I would say that we have come so very far building on the work he started. I would say that it is more possible to vote freely. I would say that there are new levels of success and possibility for people of color. I would say that we elected an African American President in what should have been his lifetime.
Fourth, I would say that we have far to go yet in realizing the dream. The gaps we have between white people and people of color are still large, and many of our children are still hindered in their pursuit of their dreams. I would apologize to him for the places we have forgotten the lessons he taught us and for the places we think of them as history and not guideposts. I would renew my pledge to make this the work of our lifetimes, and I would offer that the whole community must throw its shoulder to this work.
Finally, I would end where I began. I would say thank you to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for everything he did and everything he showed us we could be.