Press Play: Reflecting on the lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.

In an era of contentious debate, Connie Swinney recalls how MLK, Jr.'s legacy should inspire everyone to carry out civic responsibilities through non-violent means.

 

 

 

By Connie Swinney

Growing up in west Texas, I was privileged to view the world from a perspective which emphasized exceptionalism, self-sufficiency, hard work and faith.

I internalized and cultivated my standpoint over the years using personal heroes, leaders from our history with the same philosophy and, of course, personal experience.

On Jan. 21, 2019 our country will recognize one of those leaders who is also one of my heroes — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — for his contribution and inspiration during the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960s. The celebration is a federal holiday observed on the third Monday of every January, which is typically closest to his birth date, Jan. 15.

His influence has been so powerful that his message resonates today; however, I have become concerned that several generations of vitriolic political discourse may have muted his words to some extent.

Recalling how I was taught in public school to remember and honor his legacy helps reinforce my view of my own role in the world as well as my civic responsibilities.

MLK Jr. was slain in 1968 by an assassin's bullet by someone who sought to snuff his vision for non-violent activism. As a result King was exalted to martyrdom and further canonized in history as a pivotal figure against racial discrimination in state and federal law.

Because of the lessons he taught in the church setting and in the public square before I was born, his legacy helped forge my foundation to strive personally and professionally — less hindered by the fog of anxiety, anger, blame, regret, bitterness, self pity and revenge.

He mastered the art of communication as a resounding, colorful and wise orator while effortlessly maintaining a humble demeanor.

Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that many of my interactions stem from a sense of humility and warm regard. I have noticed such a welcoming attitude appears to work well for those who wish to influence others. Not to mention, I believe God smiles on such a demeanor.

These traits can become a benchmark for good behavior, effective interaction and persuasive expression.

I admire Martin Luther King Jr. for his character and more; the most profound of which are his inspiring words.

He called others to action when he said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

For those who might become discouraged by losses in hard-fought battles, he said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

To encourage us not to judge but instead embrace those who would try to cause us harm, King said, “There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

I believe if King were alive today, he would be proud of those who have integrated his words into their lives, adapted them to best suit their journey and hoisted themselves past adversity.

With grace, perseverance and persistence, we can surmount any challenge.

As a Christian, a touchstone for my reaction in challenging situations can also be traced back to biblical teachings which have always served as a guide for the King family.

I have found one of the best ways to nurture a humble spirit and defuse tense situations involves a verse in Galatians 5:22-23 which reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

For me, this verse is representative of MLK Jr.'s vision for society. Each seemingly simple character trait exemplifies the tenets in which the Civil Rights leader lived and personified.

Each of us should be humbled to work each day to strive to nurture such spirit.

Connie Swinney is a staff writer for The Highlander and Burnet Bulletin. She covers Marble Falls city and community news, the police beat and the 33rd/424th Judicial District Courts. Send her a note at connie@highlandernews.com.

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