Martin Luther King Jr. holiday: A day on, not a day off

  • Published
  • By Chap. (Maj.) Dwayne A. Jones
  • 8th Fighter Wing chaplain
"Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

      Reverend Doctor Martin King Jr. was a great man, and his legacy continues to live on.  He was a leading pillar that embraced justice, equality and nonviolence.  Today, his words and teachings are still influential in people's minds. Dr. King contributed much effort toward humanity and goodwill toward society; I surmise that he was a servant leader.  What made him a profound man and electrifying leader? Was it his money?  Was it his social status?  Was it the color of his skin? Dr. King embodied tenacity, determination and exemplary courage to serve people who were oppressed and treaded the waters of despair and hopelessness.  That is a symbol of greatness.  Greatness possesses different shades of color, ethnicities, creeds, nationalities--I believe greatness evolves out of courage.

Courage is the catalyst of greatness. 
       Courage is having the ability to do that which is morally right and ethically robust.  It is stepping out and doing what is needed to be done because no one else will do it. Courage is the heartbeat of a true leader.  Can a leader be effective without courage?  I say it is very difficult. But, I have discovered that courage does not discriminate ... it welcomes everyone!   Courage comes from the fibers of one's soul, which goes and does the unthinkable--and the extraordinary.  The United States military has had great war generals, but they did not become great without tenacious men and women enacting that power to engage with courage, to serve with commitment, and love for their wingman or battle buddy to their left and right in the heat of battle. Dr. King noted, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."  Dr. King radiated courage and strength to stand during difficult times. I want to underscore two key basic ingredients that electrified Dr. King's courage to serve.  1) Love for humanity and 2) His destiny to serve equality.

First, John Donne highlights the essence of being connected to humanity by saying no man is an island. He says, "No Man is an island entire of itself.  Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main ... any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind...."  Dr. King lived this quote. For him this was the oasis for courage and strength.  Love causes a person to move with compassion to take care of the one who is hurting or grieving.  I like to think of love as a platform for courage.  Dr. King's love for humanity looked beyond race, ethnicity, gender, and it saw and felt the injustice, inequality, and degradation that plagued people of color. Nevertheless, love for humanity strengthened his heart toward whites and a partial judicial system. Dr. King stated, "Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong."   
     Spirituality is a divine common thread that is made with the elastic fibers of love and kindness and it glows with compassion and forgiveness. Spirituality connects with the essence of one's soul, or the fibers of one's existence.  I have learned from life's experiences that all of us can be spiritual and not religious.  It is the spiritual that will look beyond ours faults and see our need.   Love is the canopy that covers a multitude of hate. Love for humanity causes us to be spiritually connected.

Second, equality is about creating an impartial and equal atmosphere that generates an opportunity for everyone to excel, build self-dignity, and create positive self-esteem.  It appears that Dr. King's destiny was tied to equality and justice. As leaders, we have the responsibility and obligation to help mentor all people.  If we are going to embrace equality, we must be leaders of integrity because integrity summons self-accountability.  Self-accountability warrants a certificate of equality for everyone.  Dr. King advocated that equal opportunity gave people a fair chance to develop as decision makers.  Someone asked General Eisenhower, "How does one develop as a decision maker?" He responded by saying that you have to be at the table.  In order to embrace Dr. King's dream, we have to invite people to the decision-making table who are of different races and genders. It is our destiny as leaders to mentor and cultivate young leaders...a general starts being a general as a second lieutenant. Equality destroys walls of helplessness, hopelessness, and impossibility. Further, equality builds platforms of self-esteem, endless possibilities and future leaders.  Sometimes it takes courage to embrace equality because equality is an intentional and conscience decision.  Treating people fair is always the right thing to do.

  A few days ago, I asked an Airman, "What does courage mean to you?" She stated, "Courage is the ability to make unpopular decisions ... and at times disagree with the popular decisions."  There were times when Dr. King made unpopular decisions and disagreed with popular decision. I asked another Airman what does the MLK theme "A Day On, Not A Day Off" mean to you? He stated, "I like it because we should always stand for what is right, we can't afford to take a day off."  Dr. King never took a day off; he served until his untimely death. All of us can be great because we all can serve.   Let us not forget that we serve every day ... In essence, YOU ARE GREAT! Remember, "A Day On, Not A Day Off."