BOSTON (CBS) — For many of us, especially those old enough to remember the 1960s, today will include some form of reflection on the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the great civil rights leaders whose birthday is observed on this holiday.
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However, for many others, the day will pass without serious commemoration.
That’s a shame, and a good argument why this should not be a day off from school, but a day set aside to educate the young on who Dr. King was and what he stood for.
For instance, a productive hour could be spent today in every classroom in America discussing Dr. King’s guidelines for civil rights activists desegregating public buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956.
In a one-page advisory, Dr. King and other officers of the Montgomery Improvement Association wrote that the integration of the buses “places upon us all a tremendous responsibility of maintaining, in face of what could be some unpleasantness, a calm and loving dignity befitting good citizens and members of our race.”
“Some unpleasantness,” what an understatement of the spite and violence the civil rights movement was subjected to in those days.
After emphasizing personal courtesy the document concludes with this: “Do not be afraid to experiment with new and creative techniques for achieving reconciliation and social change.”
Those words and the tactics of non-violence and seizing the moral high ground may seem dated in this era of division and acrimony.
But history shows that Dr. King got more done in his 39 years than more strident voices ever have, a lesson every American school child should be dwelling on today.
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