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mlk day reflections 2015

07/27/2016 11:00:14 AM


Martin Luther King Jr Day is upon us.  As I reflect this year, I am moved by the recent opportunity to be the legal officiant for one of my closest friend’s wedding to his partner in Washington D.C.  Being in DC, I walked to see the new MLK Jr. monument.  The entrance felt like walking through the Sea of Reeds when I passed the towering slabs on either side.  All around the arena were quotes from his speeches.  It felt like the most meaningful part of my sightseeing.

The vision statement of his memorial describes the intent as thus: 

Dr. King championed a movement that draws fully from the deep well of America's potential for freedom, opportunity, and justice. His vision of America is captured in his message of hope and possibility for a future anchored in dignity, sensitivity, and mutual respect; a message that challenges each of us to recognize that America's true strength lies in its diversity of talents. The vision of a memorial in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. is one that captures the essence of his message, a message in which he so eloquently affirms the commanding tenants of the American Dream – Freedom, Democracy and Opportunity for All... Upon reflection, we are reminded that Dr. King's lifelong dedication to the idea of achieving human dignity through global relationships of well being has served to instill a broader and deeper sense of duty within each of us— a duty to be both responsible citizens and conscientious stewards of freedom and democracy.

Later that night, I officiated the ceremony at the Willard Hotel. In planning the ceremony, I was challenged how to create a meaningful and spiritual experience where neither groom had a strong religious connection and their spirituality was loosely connected with humanistic and social justice values.  What liturgy could I use?  I learned that the Willard was the place where MLK Jr. finished writing his ‘I Have a Dream' speech.  It dawned on me that I might be able to pull liturgy from the speech to connect the arc of justice that King often referred to. Here are the selections I chose: 

"In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force...

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."


Hearing these words at the wedding framed as a justice unfolding in our country was incredibly powerful.  My friend Allen has a multiracial family and I asked his mother to read these words only to discover on that day that she had been to the March on Washington to hear King say those words.  Needless to say, the tears flowed. 
As I reflect on how much progress has been made in a year, I am grateful for the legacy of Dr. King and the sense of justice that remains a cornerstone for our country.   I will have the opportunity to address my reflections at a gathering Greenville, S.C., a program of Year of Altruism organized by my childhood rabbi Marc Wilson on Monday.
You have been invited to the MLK Day March on Monday to join with fellow CBH members. 

Let us be reminded of our responsibility for reaching towards justice and extending a sense of hope as we remember these words from Dr. King: "We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

Rabbi Josh

Wed, January 27 2021 14 Shevat 5781