It’s been 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march from Selma to Montgomery for civil and human rights. Thousands marched alongside Dr. King for the 50 miles to Montgomery, walking 12 hours a day and sleeping in fields along the way. In a few weeks, I’ll be traveling to Selma for an anniversary commemoration with my friend, Atlanta Congressman John Lewis. John Lewis marched alongside Dr. King that day and later stood next to him for Dr. King’s, “I Have a Dream Speech.”
I’m looking forward to the opportunity to engage with history alongside a man who lived it. On this Martin Luther King Day, as we honor a man whose life was dedicated to the timeless ideals of fairness, equality, and justice, I want to share with you the lesson Congressman Lewis says Dr. King taught him:
“I saw those signs that said ‘white men,’ ‘colored men,’ ‘white women,’ ‘colored women,’ ‘white waiting,’ ‘colored waiting.’
I would come home and ask my mother, my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, ‘Why?’
They would say: ‘That’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble.’
In 1957, I met Rosa Parks at the age of 17.
In 1958, at the age of 18, I met Martin Luther King Jr., and these two individuals inspired me to get in the way, to get in trouble.”
Dr. King fought to break the “chains of discrimination” and provide harbor for those stranded on the “lonely island of poverty.” Today, we build on that legacy as we confront our own challenges.
Ohio has some of the finest doctors and hospitals in the country, but we also have the worst African American infant mortality rate in the country.
Dr. King said “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
That’s why we must work together on so many issues before us – from maintaining expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income Ohioans to addressing Ohio’s unacceptably high rate of infant mortality. Inequality will only continue if we don’t heed Congressman Lewis’ call to take action.
Dr. King understood progress in our nation is never easy. From health care reform to voting rights to workers’ rights and women’s rights – our progress has been an uphill battle.
But we must continue the fight.
We must not lose hope.
As Dr. King believed, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Thank you for all that you do each day in living Dr. King’s words. I look forward to continue working with you to make Ohio an even better place to advance Dr. King’s ideals.