Celebrating and remembering Dr. King's dream

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I came to Washington to attend medical school in 1966 and saw this as my first opportunity to be a part of the history-making change that so many inspired and that he led.

In fact, my decision in my sophomore year to become a doctor and answer that need in the African American community was my answer to that call.

Early in my time in D.C. I joined the anti-war movement. I don't recall the occasion or the place (although strange as it seems, I think it was a meeting/reception at the FBI building) where I finally had the honor of meeting Dr. King himself, to shake his hand and hear him say a few words in person. I decided to become a part of his Poor People's Campaign. He was assassinated as preparations were being made.

Horrible things seem to happen on beautiful days, because I remember walking across the park on my way home from medical school and stopping to pick up one of the early flowers of spring. Later came the horrific news, and while we knew DC would erupt in the anger we all felt and in the retaliation with which we all wanted to respond, I stayed in the District – a city under siege - despite my roommates’ urgings to stay with them in the Virginia suburbs.

The second Sunday following his death was yet another, if posthumous, time when Dr. King brought all of us of different races, beliefs, religions, sexual orientations and nationality together as we drove to our places of worship or elsewhere with lights on, greeting each other warmly, as the brothers he called us to be. We were united in grief but also in reverence and gratitude for his life. We dared to hope for change!

I remember that even the brothers on the street changed their demeaning calls to respectful greetings as I passed them on the way to classes.

I devoted my summer to the Campaign and while it would take another page to describe the experience, it was a life-changing event for me.

So as we come to the opening of the Martin Luther King Memorial, we do so at a time when we need his spirit to talk to us more than ever; at a time when we need to adopt a posture of non-violence in word, as well as deed more than ever; a time when so much of what he fought for and achieved on behalf of people in this country and everywhere is being rolled back or threatened and a time when the poor, the left out and the left behind in this country need that “ justice (that) rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Recalling his words that “we shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” it is my ardent hope and my earnest prayer that the Martin Luther King memorial, this monument to his life and his teachings, will rekindle peace and goodwill in this country that he loved, that it will serve to re-ignite God's love in all of us - one for another - and that it will finally bring us together in the “Beloved Community” that was Dr. King’s hope and his dream.