Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Our nation paused for an official holiday last Monday to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. We remember him for his vision of a time when all men and women will be treated equally, where all have opportunities to achieve the promise of freedom – and the pursuit of happiness. We remember him for his articulate and passionate speeches, and his courage in the face of danger. But what we remember most is what makes him one of the few – one of the very few – that he fought and worked for the fulfillment of his dream using peace, not violence.

Perhaps one day this holiday will include two other men in modern times who were cut of the same cloth, Mahatma Ghandi and more recently, Nelson Mandela. Each of them changed the world using only the courageous actions of love and respect for all men and women. They have proven in our life time (well, the lifetime of many of us still) that there is great power in non-violent action when enough people work together for what is right. That’s why they are honored. That’s why we need to remember them.

At the core of fighting hunger is the courage to do what is right. It is right to provide nutritious food for our children, as well as a first-rate education so that they will be healthy and have the opportunity to succeed. What comes with our freedom in this country is the reality that some of us make bad choices. Or others have made bad choices made for them. And some simply did not start with, or lost along the way, the ability to compete in a competitive economic system. Failure is no stranger to most of us. Regardless of a person’s reason to be hungry, they have the right to a nutritious meal, and when they receive that meal from a community that cares, the world is changed for the better. It is not a step toward a better world. It is a better world because of each act of kindness that makes a difference in one person’s life.

It’s just that we need more of these gestures of kindness that nourish not only the body, but the person. That’s why we have public education, public support for emergency food programs for people of all ages, and meals for children provided in our public schools by taxpayers. There is no freedom when there are no options to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, simply a society is not kind to those in need. Freedom and doing what is right go hand in hand, or not at all.

Let us all celebrate what Dr. King taught and showed us in his life and in his death – that we can do it, too. But it takes courage.