When in doubt as to whether or not I should stand up for or defend something I believe in when it appears it may pose a threat or a challenge or be controversial, I remind myself of the words below by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who wrote this speech at the same age I am now. I am humbled by his willingness to act and press forward compared to my own tendencies to retreat and take no action even though there are times when I know I should.
For better or worse our lives here on earth at this time in our history are filled with examples of injustice and inequities. They are all around us; though I do not believe it will always be this way. The measure of each of us, of the very lives we were blessed with, is whether or not we make the most of what we were given to make things that much better for all while we are here. Sometimes this is as easy as a smile, a hug, a phone call, a thank you note, a donation, a sponsorship, or a helping hand to someone in need. Other times standing up for what we believe in can appear much more daunting and challenging, even frightening or life threatening.
There is not one of us who is not faced with this dilemma on an almost daily basis. But let us all as friends and lovers and associates and coworkers be inspired that the path has already been forged for us by others as the speech below reminds. And let us each commit to one another in our hearts in silence or aloud that before we pass that we will each do our absolute best. Together there will be no stopping us from creating a truly enlightened world for ourselves and for those who will come after us. –Ed Hale
“I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.
“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.
“You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.
“Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.
“And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.
“You died when you refused to stand up for right.
“You died when you refused to stand up for truth.
“You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the sermon “But, If Not” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on November 5, 1967