In 1944, according to an article in the New York Times, Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Connecticut as a young man to work on a tobacco farm. In a letter to his father, he wrote, “After we passed Washington there was no discrimination at all. The white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit any where we want to.” The article talks about how some believe that these experiences shaped the young Martin Luther King leading him to become a religious leader and a civil rights leader.
On this day that we celebrate his birthday, it is useful to think about those experiences, about his life, and about how much further we have yet to go. Working at a community health center I am reminded of the disparities in health care in our country. A young black man can now sit anywhere on the bus that he wants on his way to a health center, but are we creating a new form of segregation between those who have private health insurance and those who do not? Are health centers separate? Are they equal?
With that, let me take a section of Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech,
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
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.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
Let me add to that,
I have a dream that one day, these sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at community health centers. They will be able to receive the same high quality health care, no matter what their race, age, or economic status is.
This Martin Luther King, Jr. day, Twitter is full of quotes attributed to Dr. King. One of the most quoted is “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” Many people are providing links to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service website Some are finding opportunities to serve through the Community HealthCorps website.
I hope everyone is finding ways to do something for others today, and as an ongoing activity. I hope everyone is finding ways eliminate disparities in our lives based on age, race, and economic status.