Friday, 4 April 2008

"I have a dream"

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, one of the most influential figures the world has seen.

He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott and overturned the policy of racial segregation on Alabama's public transport system. Seven years later he led the 1963 March on Washington and delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal..."

"Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring - when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city... we are free at last." It was and is a powerful oratory.

His efforts led to a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the youngest person ever awarded such an honour. He was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, aged 39.

Martin Luther King is always someone I've admired. His determination that there was a better way, that all men are equal, was as inspiring then as it is now. He was a true giant in our history, and his ideas continue to have relevance today.

And yet, despite his influence, there is still much to do.

Every day in our international society people around the world are persecuted, for their race, religious beliefs, lifestyle choices or gender. While Martin Luther King changed the world for America, the world outside still needs change.

I come back to the topic of China and the Olympics. For those who claim to be statesmen, leaders of men, the opportunity is there for them to make a similar difference.

Martin Luther King stood up when he saw injustice and said this is wrong. Why won't our leaders? Why won't Gordon Brown stand up and say that the way China persecutes its population is wrong?

Leaders lead. That's why Martin Luther King is a giant among men. And that's why today's world leaders are nowhere near the man he was.


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