Below is the speech that I was fortunate to give at today's Norwegian American Hospital 2nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Recognition Program.
I would like to talk to you for a few minutes about the importance of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
In his analysis of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talks about a shift in thinking – from a “me” perspective to a “we” perspective. Dr. King states, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the Good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"
You see, the courage of Rosa Parks, vision of W.E.B. DuBois, the humanitarianism of Roberto Clemente, and the ultimate sacrifices made by John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, Medger Evers, Emmitt Till and, ultimately, Dr. King himself all stem from the timeless concept that, when we love our neighbors as ourselves, we are no longer black or white, Jew or Gentile, Protestant or Catholic, we are simply children of the most high who share the same aspirations for peace, love, and prosperity, for ourselves and those inhabitants of this earth who have yet to be born.
Moreover, Dr. King recognized another truth that transcends the boundaries of time and space – That which we do for ourselves follows us to the grave, but that which we do for others’ lives long after we are gone. So, when you comfort the grieving patient, assist the lost visitor, or aid your fellow co-workers when they are burdened, you are not simply performing your job – you are contributing to the freedom that Dr. King alluded to in the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. You are etching your name in the heavens alongside the saints because you are extinguishing the darkness of hatred and intolerance with the light of love, cooperation, and truth.
Now, more than ever, the world requires us to set aside our superficial differences so that we can create the environment where God’s kingdom may be manifested here on earth. It is possible for us to see this kingdom when we can judge our fellow human beings, not by the color of their skin, how they choose to worship God, or who they choose to love, but by the content of their character. As Dr. King stated, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
So, let us go forth with perfect love, for ourselves as well as our neighbors, and complete the work of lifting humanity to the level of divinity that is our birth right. Let us perform this work so well that, as Dr. King put it, “…the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” Let us perform the labor of uplifting humanity with dignity because all such labor should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
Most importantly, let us rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. When you can look to your left and your right and have just as much, if not more concern for the person that you see because you see the reflection of our common parents in them, we are not far from the day when all of God’s children will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Thank you for listening with your hearts as well as your ears. May God continue to bless all of you.