Forty-nine years ago an assassin's bullet ended the life of one of America's best known leaders, The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior. King had just turned 39, three months earlier, and in his short life did more than one can imagine. Yes, he was a leader, but not an elected politician. He led people to God and to freedom and to economic justice and to equality.
Almost everyone, even those who weren't alive back then, can quote portions of speeches by Dr King. The list of his famous sermons and addresses stirs a certain spirit inside us all: "Rediscovering Lost Values," "The Death of Evil Upon the Seashore," "Paul's Letter to American Christians," "I Have a Dream," "The Casualties of the War in Vietnam," "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," "I've Been to the Mountaintop," and "We Shall Overcome."
Each year on his birthday, his death day, and during the holiday that was created to honor him, I try to learn more about this man of non-violence and great faith. One thing I do is look at how we have viewed him since his violent murder. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was posthumously awarded to him in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. The citation read: "Martin Luther King Jr. was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet."