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1/18/04 - MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. - 2004-01-20

The U.S., its friends and allies are engaged in a global war against terrorists. As U.S. civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” On January 19th, the U.S. observes a national holiday in Dr. King’s honor.

The U.S. recognizes “the lasting truth” of Martin Luther King’s words, said President George W. Bush, and “we renew our commitment to the principles of justice, equality, opportunity, and optimism that Dr. King espoused and exemplified.”

Dr. King, a Baptist minister, was one of the world’s best-known advocates of non-violent social change. Applying the principle of nonviolence to the civil rights movement in the U.S., Martin Luther King preached racial equality at a time when black Americans were still victims of segregation and discrimination. During the nineteen-fifties and nineteen-sixties, he traveled across the U.S. and around the world, delivering hundreds of speeches in which he advocated non-violence.

Martin Luther King’s message of tolerance brought about enormous change in the U.S. One of his most memorable speeches was delivered in the summer of 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom:

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

Martin Luther King appealed not to resentment but to reason, not to anger but to conscience. In 1968, he was slain by an assassin. He was thirty-nine years old. In the words of President Bush, “Through the efforts of heroes like Martin Luther King, Junior, and other brave men and women of the civil rights movement, our nation has made progress in battling racism and building a society that more fully lives up to its democratic ideals.”