When we think of legacy, many things come to mind: children, community, the impact we may leave on the world.
It has been 54 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his legacy as a ministerial leader, civil rights activist and agitator for justice is still one we celebrate, reflect on and he continues to be someone we aspire to be like in our own lives.
Often the ability to leave a legacy of note is tied to economic means. In the United States, where poverty disproportionately impacts communities of color and access to equitable resources can change the course of life for a family, it is more critical than ever that we hear and act on Dr. King’s message to lift up our neighbors.
In his Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Dr. King expressed that to be a great nation, the United States needed to be a compassionate nation expressed by both individuals and collectives. As individuals, our contributions over time have shifted the country, and I continue to have faith in our capacity to effect change and progress that impacts people beyond our immediate network.
Collectives, and the resources they wield, are also critical to creating a compassionate world that can help reduce poverty. What looks like a ripple from an individual can make a powerful impact when backed by the power of the collective. The work being done to eliminate the digital divide for millions of Americans by ensuring reliable connectivity can drive economic development and increase graduation rates and higher education attainment.
Additionally, as the nation continues to face an unprecedented number of natural disasters, which disproportionally impact communities of color, we must continue to invest in solutions that get people back on their feet when their lives are upended.
Of the many lessons I’ve learned from Dr. King, one lesson rings particularly true in this moment: one voice can inspire millions. Recall that ripple effect I mentioned earlier. Big or small, we all have the power to make a positive impact in our communities. Change does not have to be perfect to make a difference, but we can accelerate that impact at scale when we’re intentional about our efforts.
Be that voice in your community by cultivating meaningful connections with others on similar paths and stand beside those that society too often chooses to ignore. Together, we can build upon Dr. King’s legacy to see his vision become a reality for all.
I invite you to watch and listen to some of Dr. King’s youngest admirers as they read a letter to Dr. King, reminding us we all have the power to choose compassion, create a legacy and turn the ripple into a movement: