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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2730

“Promissory Note Given To American People Must be Honored” King’s Eloquence in Fighting for Freedom

By Philip Fernando in Los Angeles

Martin Luther King premised his freedom fight on the “promissory note” the architects of the American Republic had given the people of America. King quoted the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." He believed then that America had defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. In retrospect, King was way ahead of his times, still pressed on hard for change and reminded the fierce urgency of the need. His untimely death and its traumatic aftermath may have thwarted the pace of progress he sought so emotively and the urgency he asked for may have caused a sense of fear among certain sections of society. It is time to look back. The tender chord that Martin Luther King  touched that government should be based on moral character resonated and engulfed society even today.The tender chord that Martin Luther King touched that government should be based on moral character resonated and engulfed society even today.

Forty five years after his Montgomery marches we are seeing the fruition of his aspirations. Education levels that hindered the progress of the Blacks had diminished considerably, poverty levels have lessoned and above all awareness is at its peak. Barrack Obama is living testimony to what the “dream” was all about. It is not the fierce pace that we are seeking today but a more substantial achievement levels for all citizens to achieve success.

King, as none had done before him, stressed what had been embodied in the American constitution, that only self-government based on absolute truth and moral law was the sole foundation of democracy. He did it in the fifties, a time when prevalent political polarization in society was indicative of racial judgment, and thus, inherently unjust.

The tender chord that he touched that government should be based on moral character resonated and engulfed society even today. His dream that his children will some day live in a color blind society instead of a value-neutral society that rejects all standards of judgment is now getting traction many years after his death.

Equality of man and woman envisioned by the constitution was far from a reality. But the moral quality of leadership that America needs is emphasized vehemently today. Every election since King die, there has been a gradual rising in the “level of character” debate that the people are engaged in. The upward mobility levels in society also blossomed in many ways. The employment opportunities have flourished for Blacks, Asians and Hispanics. The income disparity is being tacked drastically.

The lasting testimony of Martin Luther King is the degree of change now envisioned by all political candidates to the 2008 election. Change had become the key word. It is not longer whether change is going to enrich a particular segment of society but what change will do to society in general. That debate is not racial. Brown v. Board of Education has engulfed people not only of color but all shades of color. When we recalled how it happened, there is a great degree of inspiration flowing all over.

King was the standard bearer, a driving force in the push for racial equality in the 1950's and the 1960's in Birmingham, Alabama, and they marched and protested non-violently, getting brutal reaction that went beyond water cannons and police dogs on the marchers. King’s massive march on Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963, and the speech he made is the unprecedented mobilizing effort this country has ever seen. King made the 1964 Civil Rights Act a reality. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, at age 35, the youngest to get it.

King raised the nation from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the open path of racial justice. We benefited immensely and are ever grateful to King for his great vision. We have to be reminded that to conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline and not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.

- Asian Tribune -

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