Graf: Words of our fathers

BY L.C. GRAF | JANUARY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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There are three things my dad has always preached to me, “Find your passion, find your voice, seek an audience.”

More or less, these were the same three points iterated to me on Monday during Melissa Abram-Jackson’s speech “Time to Remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” at the Old Capitol Museum as a kick-start to the weeklong celebration of King’s life.

When I introduced myself to her afterwards and told her that she spoke the same language as my father, she jokingly told me that he’d paid her to be there that day. I very nearly believed her.

On Martin Luther King Day I realized that the same words my dad has been preaching are the same words that human-rights activists have been following. I realized that the lessons discussed in Abram-Jackson’s speech and all the lessons I learned growing up are not lessons that everyone else has heard. I never thought to connect my dad to King, and I should have. I should have seen that what my dad was saying wasn’t new, it was really the speech of every humanitarian. It was the guide to self-sacrifice, to social responsibility, and the key to finding strength within myself.

Let’s break it down.

If you don’t find your passion, you won’t have the strength to go after your dream. Frankly, Martin Luther King wasn’t just passionate about civil rights. He graduated from college at the age of 19 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in systematic theology. He was a minister and an organizer for civil action.

Hypothetically, if King hadn’t been passionate about what he saw through his education and through his ministry, he wouldn’t have had the strength to voice his opinions. If he didn’t have a voice, he wouldn’t have found an audience, and thus wouldn’t have been a major part of the civil rights movement.

The same thing can be said for every single one of us.

This week, Iowa has been celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. during the annual King Celebration of Human Rights. With the events, “Building Positive Care Relationships Between Health-Care Workers and Transgender Patients,” “Structural Violence: Health Disparities in the U.S. and Abroad,” and “Bringing the Vision Home: Celebrating Iowa Women of the Civil Rights Movement,” this week has started the semester off with an opportunity for students to get passionate.

It only takes one person to make a difference, and no matter the loudness of your voice, if you have the willingness or the passion, you’ll be able to make a difference like many of the men and women who have been fighting for freedom throughout the history of our country.

Although this week is coming to an end, the fight for civil rights is not. Every day we as a changing society have to make the decision to move forward. As King said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”

It is our responsibility to take to heart the words of those before us so that King’s Dream is also the American Dream.

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