"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter" is one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most famous quotes. Looking back through the generations, it should not be difficult to see that quote is timeless. The only real difference is the different ways it has been interpreted.
The generation known as "the Greatest Generation" was described by Richard Nixon as "the Silent Majority" vs. "the vocal minority." Many years ago, I asked some members of that generation why, with many serious issues in the United States, they'd had little or no involvement in any of it. I was told most adults were busy raising and supporting their families, and did not have time for direct involvement. However, the lack of direct involvement did not mean they were completely "silent about things that matter." Whether casting votes or speaking up against wrongs, their voices were still heard.
The following generations were even less "silent." Whether actively participating in anti-war protests or finding some other platform to get their points across, they made it clear they had something to say-- and said it. The '70s, and the youth of the '70s, were not looked on as favorably. The media referred to it as The Age of Nothingness, The Age of Narcissism, and The 'Me' Generation. In the decade following Rev. King's assassination, fewer people took that quote to mean things that matter beyond oneself. Some even said "if it does not affect me, personally, why should I care?"
Today's youth and young adults grew up in the shadow of The 'Me' Generation. Fortunately, many have not automatically absorbed the apathy of the generation before them. Whether by action, words, or both, Rev. King's quote is often taken to heart. "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." If you think about it, what matters? What are you doing to make a difference in the world, or even in your small part of the world? Is the focus on self-- or on community? Above all, how do you react to injustice? Martin Luther King, Jr., did not close his eyes to injustice-- and neither should anyone else. Every person has the opportunity to make a difference.