Happy birthday, MLK!



For me, no other great American birthday is more important than Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Not one. That's because, like so many other Americans, I consider Dr. King to be our nation's greatest hero.

And so, every year on or around the time of his birthday or the official MLK Jr. holiday (which will be Jan. 21 this year), I post the same story. It's a story I've written, revised and rewritten countless times. This year, I'm just going to offer a link to the version I posted last year.

You may think it's lazy of me to repost something that I've written and published in years past about Dr. King. But I'm not doing it out of laziness. I'm doing it because every year on this day, I'm reminded of the same story, and until Dr. King's dream really comes true in this country, this story will continue to resonate for me - year after year after year.

In the original piece, I talked about my favorite childhood Allman Brothers song, "Dreams," and then posed a couple of questions:

When we think of Dr. King's "dream" today, do we think only of the dazzling speech he made on the Washington mall about those "little black boys and black girls" in Alabama joining hands with "little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers"? Or do we also think about his other dreams - the more complex dreams that we haven't yet seen?

And then I offered some commentary on how we're faring today...

At the risk of diminishing the great strides the country has made in the 40-plus years since King was gunned down in Memphis, I believe our city, state and nation are nowhere near achieving his dreams. And for any of us to sit back and bask in the accomplishments while downplaying the very real problems we still face with regard to intolerance in our nation is to disrespect King's legacy.

The specter of racially motivated hate is everywhere today. It's in the faces of those hordes of citizens whose anger over the nation's first black president is so intense that it can't be chalked up to mere political differences. It's in the voices of those whose rage at Spanish-speaking brown people in the U.S. is so intense that it can't be explained away as just opposition to so-called illegal immigration. It's in the actions of those whose animosity over a mosque in New York City is so intense that it can't be just concern for national security.

What is national security anyway? Is it an America where everyone looks alike and thinks and believes the same things? Or is it an America that values diversity and cultural understanding? Say what you will, cover it up with whatever veil you choose, but the venom we see every single day in this city and nation is nothing short of racism and xenophobia. And this must stop or it will kill us all.

For the full commentary, including a video of the Allmans playing "Dreams," go here.

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