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A Legacy To Live By

By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford

“I have decided to stick with love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here, 1967 

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one I have spent years trying to not only fully understand, but also find myself striving to live up to. I am amazed by how powerful his faith and love was at a time when he lived among people who had so little respect for him! He didn’t back down in the face of hardship. He stood up and fought for what he believed in; for what was right. That takes tremendous courage and faith.

You have to admire the strength it takes to maintain the courage of your convictions in an environment like that! That is strength and a hope that I try to remember and apply to my life every day. What a powerful message: to stick with love, because hate is too great a burden to bear. Wow!

I am reminded of Matthew 5:44 when I reread Dr. King’s quote above: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

It can be easy to lash out and let the feelings of anger and hate into our hearts when we feel an injustice has been served. But Dr. King, with a message guided by the words of God, set forth a great example of how we can and should handle such feelings and adversity. Dr. King, who was easily one of the most prominently persecuted people of modern American times, chose not to succumb to those feelings. Instead, he chose to see the good and stay true to his faith and message: that to love and to forgive are among the greatest gifts we have been given. Dr. King was a living testament to that.

I have to admit I don’t always see the good. I don’t always feel the love. But as I, and our country, celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I urge everyone to remember that this holiday is not just about remembering a great man and all he stood for. It’s about taking his life, his message, and using it as a road map for our own lives. 

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Our country has come a long way since the times of Dr. King. Our country has elected a black president. Our children, regardless of color, attend the same school and play on the same sports teams. Some of Dr. King’s powerful dreams of the sixties have been realized. However, we’ve still got a long way to go.

People are not perfect, so we are not a perfect nation. But we are a nation that is making progress and moving forward. No matter what issues might arise, we will all be better off remembering Dr. King’s message of love over hate.

Remembering that Dr. King spoke not just about racial injustices, but also spoke of freedom for all people, peace for our nation, and a unity that we should all strive for. Yes, racial equality was his goal. But his message was much broader.

So I hope you will join me this year, as we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in striving to fully embrace love, because hate is too great a burden to bear.

Craig Ford is the owner of Ford Insurance and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.

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