Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King day in the United States, a national holiday. It is a good moment to remember the man, his message, and his life of passion dedicated to securing human rights and social justice through non-violent means. He followed in the steps of Mohatma Ghandi, and was followed by such leaders as Nelson Mandela.

To honor Dr. King, we should take a good hard look at the United States and the policies of its government both at home and abroad, and analyze them the way Dr. King might have. And understanding the way Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. might have seen American policies and actions at home and in the world today, we should pick up the torch of freedom and march with passion, as he would have, toward the further realization of his dream–and ours.

See (click on the date to go to the article):

(1) “A time to break silence’: Dr. King on the Vietnam war, and President Carter on America’s human rights violations,”The Trenchant Observer, June 27, 2012 (revised June 29).

(2) “Reflections on the struggle for justice and the rule of law: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Barack Obama, and President Jimmy Carter,” The Trenchant Observer, January 15, 2013.

(3) “More on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Barack Obama,” The Trenchant Observer, January 18, 2013.

It is fitting to repeat today what we said in (2) above on January 15, 2013:

That so much of King’s dream has been accomplished, in 50 years, is cause for celebration, and also cause for a rededication of efforts to achieve that part of his dream which has not been realized with, in a phrase used elsewhere in the speech, “the fierce urgency of now”.

Yet we must also recall that Martin Luther King, Jr. did not represent African-Americans alone. He also represented white people, and others. He drew on the non-violent tradition and spiritual force of Gandhi, who helped inspire South Africans early in the 20th century, and later to liberate the subcontinent of India from British rule. King’s own message and moral example also inspired others, most notably Nelson Mandela of South Africa, who shared a similar dream and acted effectively to bring it about.

On January 21, 2013, we must also acknowledge that Martin Luther King, Jr. was the moral hero of millions of white men and women in the United States, as well as in Europe, and of many millions of men and women of other ethnicities throughout the world. He does not belong to African-Americans alone. Indeed, he belongs not only to all Americans, but to all of humanity, to “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics.”

By 1967, when he spoke out against the war in Vietnam, if not long before, King made it clear that “all of God’s children” were not limited to those who lived in the United States.

If he were alive today, there can be little doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. would be an ardent supporter of the struggle for human rights and democracy throughout the world.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.