I may not get there with you.
Just seven of the four thousand one hundred and seventy-one words in Martin Luther King’s Jr. I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech. That speech would be the last one he ever delivered as he was assassinated the very next day at the young age of 39. There are so many speeches and quotes uttered by Dr. King that have personally motivated and inspired me to be a better person. But those seven words, above all others, have always had a special meaning to me.
Dr.King delivered those words in a speech to support a strike by 1,300 sanitation workers, mostly African-American men, who were protesting the horrendous working conditions, poverty-level wages, and the city’s refusal to recognize their union, sadly issues that are still prevalent today. With those seven words, Dr. King told the world he was aware his own life might very well be cut short because of his crusade to force America to abide by the words on which it was founded. That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. But he was not afraid to die. Not because he embraced death, not because he wanted to die. Because, as he said in his own words, our lives begin to end when we stay silent about things that matter. So on that night, he refused to keep silent; he told everyone in Memphis, Tennessee that night that now was not the time to turn back out of fear. Now was the time to press on down the path of righteousness even if that path was fraught with inherent dangers. That they could not sit quietly in fear and accept the injustices they were being subjected to, it would be unconscionable to do so. Today we celebrate his birthday, and I ponder what humanity could accomplish, what heights we could reach, where we may already be if each of us had even a fraction of the resolve and courage that Dr.King had to do what was right despite what it may cost us personally. I may not get there with you – just seven words but seven words that still resonate loudly today.