America is becoming a nation of minorities. In three states where 30 percent of the population resides—California, New York, and Texas—there might well be no racial majorities within the next 25 years. These projections cause many Americans to feel like refugees in their own country and may have accounted for the reactionary voting blocs during last fall's elections. Issues like welfare reform, crime, and California's Proposition 187—all worthy of genuine discourse—seemed to bring the worst out in so many and gave racism yet another chance to rear its ugly head.
It is fitting, then, that as a new Republican-dominated Congress convenes amidst entrenched polarizations, we also set aside a day (Jan. 15) to remember the work and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Civilized nations customarily honor the memory of their founders and those who later point the way to help define and shape the national character. King was one such leader—a "providential agent" who waged war against conditions, not people. Because of his tireless efforts, many unjust laws were overturned, allowing equal opportunity and equal protection for all people through creative, contagious, nonviolent leadership. Through the civil-rights movement, a tormented people gained a promised freedom, and a nation was on the road to being transformed. Has there ever before been an American preacher who so affected the arena of public policy?
Martin Luther King, Jr., constantly reminded us that this nation can find its fulfillment only as its people live together peacefully. Again and again he sounded the trumpet of conscience and pierced the air with a stern word about our responsibilities under God, and he gave a caring word about our possibilities ...1