King’s message was foremost a positive one, appealing to our better nature, our common humanity and the duty we owed one another. He sought not to tear down one group of people for the benefit of another but to lift us all up together.
He spoke eloquently of his dreams for the future of America. It would be a place where children of all races could join hands in brotherhood, where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” he said in his famed speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
One day, “we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,” King said, and that “with this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
Five years later, in Memphis, King was still fighting to realize his dream. There, King delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. In it, King spoke of a bomb threat against the plane that brought him to Tennessee. He spoke eloquently, foreshadowing his own mortality and the need to continue the civil rights struggle.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life,” King said. “Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.”
The next day, April 4, 1968, King was cut down by an assassin’s bullet.
Nearly 45 years later, the rest of us have had some progress making our own way up the mountain. But those last few steps are always the hardest.
Someday, with God’s grace, we’ll get to the mountaintop, too. And we’ll be able to look over and see the truth that Martin Luther King Jr. saw.