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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

I assume everyone realizes why Martin Luther King Jr. had a day dedicated to his memory, but I know for certain this weekend will spark more shouts of, "Sunday fun day!" than of the more appropriate, "Where the hell would we be without that guy?"

I'm a white kid, I'm not religious and I grew up in the 1990s, not the 1960s.

I don't know much about Ken Kesey and "Furthur"; the only Magic School Bus I know about was driven by a cartoon rendition of Kathy Griffin named Ms. Frizzle.

I know about Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Kosovo. All I know about Vietnam I learned from history class and Forrest Gump.

Overlooking a life lost 30 years ago is more convenient than somberly remembering the deeds of a national hero two generations removed. Convenience cannot lead to forgetfulness.

Where would the United States be today if King had not brazenly stuck his neck out for the good of his people?

It's a question no one can answer, but thankfully, no one has to.

At some point this weekend, dedicate a fraction of your time to recognizing the triumphs of a movement led by the will and the virtue of one man.

King was a black man who campaigned for the civil rights, of all people, not just people of his race.

Civil rights apply to everyone, regardless of skin color. King wanted all people to do the right thing, not just whites.

He favored civil disobedience over the take-by-force mentality of Malcolm X. King's words-over-weapons approach allowed him to gain the favor of white Americans - stamping his signature on the civil rights movement.

His impassioned speeches and peaceful policies gained him the national attention necessary to create enough awareness to reinforce his cause.

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Consciousness snowballed into an avalanche of furious discontent that overtook the nation. The nation's reaction ignited a glorious change in government and American society.

Such change garnered by King's efforts (not to discredit the thousands of other faces of the 1960s civil rights movement) was something Americans could believe in.

Sound familiar?

There shouldn't be a person on the UF campus who is able to conscientiously ignore the power of King's voice and the effects of his policies.

President-elect Barack Obama has become the face of American politics in the past two years. Would his rise have been possible without the work of King and the rest of the civil rights movement?

If not for King's leadership back then, would we even be able to envision a black president now?

Fortunately, our generation doesn't have to consider these possibilities. Instead, we have been blessed with the opportunity to witness the fruits of King's labor.

Upon learning of threats made on his life in 1964, King responded, "If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive."

King struggled for everyone, and his triumph is shared by all.

Adam Wynn is a journalism senior. His column appears on Fridays.

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