Monday, January 21, 2019, we celebrate MLK Day. Every year, I think about what this day means. To some, it’s just a day off school. Others may work for an organization that includes MLK as a company-paid holiday. To me, it’s so much more than a national holiday. It’s a day that I try to spend reflecting as it is the root of my core beliefs and what led me to pursue my field of human resources.
We know that Martin Luther King Jr. led the nonviolent civil rights movement and made dramatic improvements possible during his life. However, the legacy he left has impacted us in ways you may not realize. He has forever left a legacy that goes far beyond his life and assassination 50 years ago.
As the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, his initiatives helped form the civil rights movement. He led massive nonviolent protests in the ’60s throughout the South into DC & Chicago. These protests brought light to discriminatory hiring practices, segregated public places, restrooms, public housing, denial of voting rights, and so many more inequalities.
If you haven’t recently listened to the “I Have a Dream” address that King delivered back in 1963 at the great march in Washington for jobs and freedom, now is a great time. Given all our country is going through, the divisions among us, and the inequalities still happening today, his message still needs to be heard.
I, for one, am always moved when I listen to his words. His urging to make good on our promise of democracy is certainly something to behold. I listen every year, and without fail, I get choked up. My favorite line is:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
King’s influence on civil rights did not end with his death. His legacy has been the enactment of numerous statutes prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, the issuance of Supreme Court decisions furthering the civil rights cause, and the advancement of all people.
I found the following timeline from SHRM. I encourage all employers to review it as it shows the progression of civil rights. The reach was far beyond what Mr. King may have envisioned back in 1957. This timeline outlines some of the notable milestones for workplaces around the country in the long, ongoing struggle for equal rights.
As I think about this day, spend it with my family, and think about the divisions in our country and government, I’m going to reflect on these words and the strong current of hope for our future. I hope you do the same:
“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
and of course, we all know that: