The words and message of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are as relevant now as they were a generation ago, state Sen. Jack Hill said.
Speaking to the annual MLK Day Observance breakfast Monday morning, Hill referred to King’s call for service to others and how that translates today, especially with the Haitian earthquake disaster.
“I felt moved by the question in my mind about Dr. King, and I felt moved by the disaster in Haiti,” he said. “And I felt the need, as we all do, to help the people there who are in such desperate straits.”
Hill quoted liberally from the former civil rights leader, echoing his comment that everybody can be great because everybody can serve.
“Dr. King’s message is relevant because never before has been there a crying need for service than there is today,” he said. “Dr. King said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing to help others.’ The opportunities to help others are endless. Right now, all of us want to do something to help the unfortunate country of Haiti and the people there.
“We don’t have to be Ted Turner or the NFL or the NBA and donate a million dollars, or even a movie star to make the large contributions they’re making. We can all serve right here in Effingham County.”
Those efforts can be much more local than lending a hand to the Haitian relief efforts, Hill said.
“So many churches are doing so many things for the homeless and needy,” he said. “So many are volunteering with Victim Witness and United Way. You can mentor young people. You can work in recreation. You can help sponsor teen groups or support after school activities.
“So the service Dr. King so believed in is definitely still relevant today. Absolutely, the message he left us is very relevant today. It is a message that still resonates, a message of service, equality and love. His ministry was rooted in service and his belief that everyone could and should serve.”
Hill said Dr. King’s goals remain relevant because of his belief in the timelessness of love and how it can change people.
“If there ever has been a more relevant time for a message of love and hope, I cannot think of it,” he said. “Our country seems so divided, and the shrill-sounding voices seem to be spreading a message of division and of discontent. Dr. King is relevant today because we can all learn from his message of love for one another.
“He was always willing to reach out to others, even to those who had mistreated. He once said he decided to stick with love because hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Hill noted he spoke to the attendees a few years ago about the adversities Dr. King faced and how he demonstrated grace under pressure.
“And he kept to his message of non-violence when few would have been able to avoid violence in that period,” he said.
Though the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday is now an official holiday, Hill added that even King’s wife Coretta Scott King said it should be a day on, not a day off, for service. He also called equality a moving target and said it requires stoking, just like a fire.
Homer Lee Wallace, president of the Effingham NAACP, recalled his house was shot at many times during the civil rights movement.
“The young folks today need to know that, and they need to take a stand for what is right,” he said.
Dr. King remarked that a leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus, Hill added, and that a great leader is not just out front when it is popular but also when it is not popular.
Hill also quoted King’s “doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.”