My all-time favorite book by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?" This book, published in 1967, is as relevant today as it was in the past; and it is relevant to everyone.
This book describes the struggles of the Civil Rights movement, and addresses solutions. However, Dr. King's wonderful ways of wording shows the need for human dignity was not limited to one segment of the population. As one example, Dr. King wrote: "Human worth lies in relatedness to God. An individual has value because he has value to God."* Unlike the Founding Fathers, who did indeed place limitations on the 'men' they felt had 'certain inalienable rights,' Dr. King's declaration of human worth did not. The individual person has value-- regardless of race, gender, age, or any other personal characteristics.
The worth and dignity of each and every human being can be summed up by this passage from Dr. King's book: "The absence of freedom imposes restraint on my deliberations as to what I shall do, where I shall live, or the kind of task I shall pursue... When I cannot choose what I shall do or where I shall live, it means in fact that someone or some system has already made these decisions for me, and I am reduced to an animal... I cannot adequately assume responsibility as a person because I have been made the victim of a decision in which I played no part...'* While Dr. King uses written terminology such as man, mankind, and brotherhood, it was not with the Founding Fathers' assumption that one must be "free, white, over-the-age, and male" in order to secure one's human rights and dignities. From persons-of-color to women and children, an individual has value because he has value to God.*
Whenever there are great leaders, there will be those who attempt to discredit them. From indiscretions in his personal life to the fact that he smoked cigarettes, nay-sayers continue to point fingers at Dr. King's alleged unfitness to be held up as the great leader that he was. Perhaps Matthew 7:3 would be an appropriate response: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Why would anyone wish to discredit Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.? because they do not like what he taught. Rather than admitting Dr. King was right in his teachings about the value of every human being, they instead zero in on his imperfections. Instead of looking at "specks of sawdust," they should be looking at their own "planks."
Much has changed since the publication of this book in 1967, but there is much more that still needs to be changed. Only when basic human worth and dignity granted as a birthright to every man and woman and child is fully acknowledged, will Dr. King's Dream be realized.