MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
As a 21-year-old Marine in 2019, I wanted to write this piece from the perspective of what the day truly means to me. As I reflect on his character, the leadership and commitment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the civil rights movement, reminds me of what is expected of every service member.
Born in 1929, the Atlanta, Georgia native grew up in a world divided by color. Even though his family lived a comfortable life via a deep connection with the Southern black ministry, King and his family were not exceptions to the state’s segregation laws. I remember hearing a story that when he was younger, he had a friend who was forbidden from playing with King due to the color of his skin and because they were attending segregated schools.
After his youth and dealing with discrimination, King’s resentment of racial segregation was further ignited when he spent the summer at a tobacco farm in Connecticut. It was during this time that he experienced the world from a non-divided life for the first time, going to unsegregated churches and restaurants. From this experience, he would continue to spend the next few years of his life attending schools along the east coast and earning degrees related to social reform and justice.
From 1955, until his assassination in 1968, Dr. King and countless others held peaceful and non-violent demonstrations which ignited a wave of supporters that spread like wildfire across the nation. It was these events that lead to the passage of numerous congressional acts, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, where even today, the embers of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement still burn.
Dr. King’s valiant advance for equal rights in the face of brutal racism and discrimination is an embodiment of numerous traits and core values that myself as a Marine strive to possess, just as any other should. The ability to be the face and voice for millions who share the same ideal of equality and unity shows what a true leadership entity that Dr. King was. This day is a reminder that it is the respect and values a person holds for themselves and others that define them, not their physical characteristics. It is also a reminder to me that no matter the adversities you face, through determination and commitment, you can accomplish anything.
That is what Martin Luther King Day means to me.