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Honor MLK through service to others

It has been many years since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was with us, but the words he spoke so long ago remain, still infused with the power to encourage and challenge us to step forward and do what is right.

Dr. King and those he inspired faced many obstacles as they struggled for basic human rights and equality for all in the eyes of the law.

On Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we pay tribute to the man, the movement he inspired and the changes that have resulted. Our society has made tremendous strides since Dr. King stepped out to lead marchers toward a better way of life, but there is much left to do.

So, as we pause to pay tribute to Dr. King and his legacy, let us not forget that we, too, have a responsibility. We cannot expect or rely on our leaders to do what is right unless we demand the same of ourselves. It is not enough to simply hear or speak Dr. King’s words — we also have to walk the walk.

We believe that the national holiday observed Monday provides an ideal opportunity to renew our commitment to citizenship through service to others and working to build a stronger community. It is a good day to pledge to put the needs of others first, to make plans to volunteer or to write a check in support of a charity or community organization.

We encourage you to consider such positive action as a fitting way to pay tribute to Dr. King, who during his lifetime called on Americans to bridge their differences, to recognize and support the struggle for justice and equality and to work to build a better and brighter future for the nation.

Those are still goals worth striving for, and each of us can help achieve them. As Dr. King often pointed out, the journey to progressive change starts with small steps — we may not be able to see our way clear to the finish, but as long as one step is in view, we can begin the climb.

Dr. King is remembered for many accomplishments, but his chief legacy was progress on civil rights. He successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law and set an example that encouraged others to continue the struggle for racial equality long after his death in 1968.

We believe that the primary lesson of Dr. King’s life and work is that each of us must step forward, address the challenges that confront us and stand for what is right — we can’t wait for someone else to solve our problems.

As we prepare for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we urge you to join those who are committed to working to end hunger, assisting the homeless and reaching out to those in need — right here at home. It’s an ideal day to do a good deed, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Dr. King’s challenge to us is that if we believe in ourselves, we can find solutions to the problems that continue to plague our society, and if we believe in each other, we can build a better future for our families and future generations.

He was quoted as saying that history would record that the greatest tragedy of that time was not the clamoring of bad people, but the appalling silence of good people.

It is within our power to make a better world. All we have to do is take the first step.