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Respect yourself is King’s message

Allow me to step into Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s shoes to examine the notion of freedom, equality and justice for all — the essence of his 1963 dream. Can we say that the dream has been realized? Absolutely not! The 1963 dream remains relevant today. Let’s see why!

King preached nonviolence. But in 1963, the Vietnam War was a preoccupation of our nation. And now, thousands of miles from home, a war is being waged to protect our hard-earned liberties. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. [Last month], a disturbed citizen assassinated a federal judge and attempted to assassinate a member of Congress! So now, what would King say?

In 1963, gross social and economic inequities between classes and ethnicities prevailed. Today, we are in the grip of economic upheavals not seen since the Great Depression of 1929. So what would King say?

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase,” King once said. These insightful words embody one of the main principles he lived by and recommended to us. He did not see the proverbial staircase yet marched towards the fulfillment of his dream — our dream — one step at a time. Today, he would be urging us to press onward on that staircase in faith.

Today, he would be quite dissatisfied by the incivility that has crept into our national discourse. Indeed, he would likely be shocked to hear a member of Congress shout, “You lie!” at the President Obama. Yet how encouraged would he be to learn of the unprecedented decision by legislators on Capitol Hill to sit with opposing members at the State of the Union address. This is the substance of Dr. King’s 2011 dream, that we transform desire and aspirations into visible action. The work is not finished. So his dream for 2011 is to press forward to accomplish the 1963 dream — freedom, equality and justice for all!

Safiya Azaunce is a junior at Bedford Academy HS. She placed second in the Zeta Phi Beta oratory essay contest. This is an edited version of that essay.

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