Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Era of 45

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Ever since Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in 1968 many leaders campaigned for his birthday to become a federal holiday. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill making the holiday a law. It was not until 1986 that the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed. This is the 31st Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day that will be observed in the United States. This MLK day will be different than the 30 that preceded. Regardless of the person in the White House and the political landscape of the country, MLK Day was a day of celebration. We celebrated the dream Dr. King had and how we may have not officially reached the mountaintop that he spoke about, but how we were a lot closer than we were when he was alive. This year, Martin Luther King Day takes on an entirely different light. We now celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King in the era of 45.

Dr. King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” On this day, as we reflect on the legacy of Dr. King, we should remember these words. Regardless of the hate spilled out by 45 when he referred to Puerto Ricans as lazy, or when he called Mexicans murderers and rapists, we have to remember love will conquer this hatred. In this era of 45, the hate will only succeed if it is left unopposed.

The best way to oppose the hatred he speaks is by actions of love. On this MLK Day, we should come together with our actions of love and our kind gestures of love should show support for one another and those less fortunate. In the darkness of this era, this day is a symbol of light because we can reflect upon one of the proudest moments of our country when Dr. King’s words and actions brought together people from all backgrounds and views of life under the common ground of equality. I dream as Martin Luther King dreamed to create a world filled with love because I do not want our children to inherit a world filled with hate.

In the era of 45, what are we going to do to make an impact? How are we going to make the world a better place? Martin Luther King’s legacy was about ensuring blacks had the same equal rights as their counterparts. Too many people before were silent on the issues. It was Martin Luther King, and a host of others, who voices rang loud for the equality for all. King said it best, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

When this era of 45 is over (I cannot wait for the day), it won’t be his words we will all remember.  We will look at one another and ask, “What did we do or say about it?” As we celebrate the legacy and life of Dr. King, we must also speak up against those words that go against his legacy. Our silence is allowing for this era to be defined for us instead of us defining it for ourselves. For eight years, we stopped speaking because we thought we had arrived. Many of us became comfortable because of Obama, the living embodiment of what Martin Luther King dreamed. If we stay silent, the Obama era will become just a blip in our history instead of memorable and lasting.

On what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 89th birthday, we celebrate the legacy of a man who risked everything to speak out and to stand up for what is right. He inspired a nation because he taught us all about courage, justice, service, and most of all humility. When 45 makes comments like, “Why are we allowing these immigrants from those shitholes countries to come to the United States?” we have to assure anyone who believes in the values of this country that they will have a seat at the table. And, if the table gets crowded; we’ll just pull up chairs on the end.

Check of these other pieces in Indy/Ed MLK Day 2018 Reflection series:

"Separate and Not Equal Cannot Continue in IPS" by Cheryl Kirk

"Our Work is More Important Than Ever Before" by Barato Britt

"Teaching the Way Martin Luther King Would" by Andrew Pillow

"We Need More Dreamers" by Shawnta S. Barnes


David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.