As we celebrate the memory of Rev. Martin Luther King in 2016 it would be instructive not so much to review the mountains of prophetic speeches, homilies, sermons and quotes as it would be to look at how he lived his life. More than any man I know, he was a public figure who lived his life consistent with his words. He was a public figure not because he sought to be a public figure so much as his courage to speak out and his heroism if acting on his beliefs distinguished him from other public figures. In other words, he did walk the walk.
Contrast his public life with those of the current crop of figures running for President. King didn’t seek leadership, he simply acted and others followed. He wasn’t naïve politically, but he had the humility to listen, to remain in the background. He didn’t need the mantle of leadership and was able to make hard decisions – impolitic decisions, such as his opposition to the war in Viet Nam. Contrast that humility with the ego of a Trump or Cruz.
Unlike virtually the entire GOP field of candidates who seek to exploit fear and to divide people, King was regularly an optimist who in the midst of violent attacks extolled the virtue of love and forgiveness. Unlike Ms. Clinton, he was not a man who paid lip service to the poor and economic injustice when politically advantageous… he didn’t pander to oppressed groups while living among the Wall St. elites and donor class.
Some argue that our social leaders now are subject to constant media scrutiny and none can bear the unrelenting lens of public scrutiny. Rev. King has had every paper, every action, and yes, even every manufactured scandal designed by the government and some of his own civil rights allies scrutinized for decades and has only grown in stature and respect.
The life and example of Rev. King is even more a prophetic beacon for our society than ever before.