Today we honor one of the great warriors for justice in the history of the United States, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), three days after what would have been his 87th birthday.
MLK, whose leadership in the battle for racial equality resulted in the passage of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 helped secure the same rights for African Americans that had been available only to white Americans.
Today, the struggle for equality continues, as efforts to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community to rest on the groundwork and inspiration of MLK’s achievements.
(Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with past AJCongress President Rabbi Joachim Prinz and US President John F. Kennedy)
As an organization that long has sought equality for all Americans, the American Jewish Congress played a critical role in supporting MLK and the civil rights movement. MLK often met with our then-president, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, to talk and strategize about how to advance human rights for all Americans. On many occasions, AJCongress leaders stood side by side and marched with MLK, during his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and on other occasions around the nation.
If not for his assassination, MLK undoubtedly would have continued his instrumental work on behalf of millions. He spoke truth to power, providing a voice for all those who otherwise were not heard in the political arena. There is no way to say for certain what more he might have achieved in the ongoing struggle for the advancement of equal rights, but even in his brief time on this earth, Martin Luther King, Jr. became one of the most important leaders in American history, remembered today around the world.
Every generation is faced with enormous challenges. The pursuit of justice and equality is an obligation we must assume in our own time if we are to honor the memory of MLK, and we must teach our children to have the courage to speak out to right the wrongs they will encounter. His was a short but extraordinary life, and every American forever will be in his debt for reminding us that truth prevails only if men and women of goodwill are willing to fight and sacrifice.
Rest in Peace Martin Luther King, Jr., as we celebrate your powerful example.
--American Jewish Congress