Sports has a unique way of bringing people together, and Monday the country celebrated a man who did the same thing—Martin Luther King, Jr.
King told us to dream big, include everyone and exclude no one. His message is still echoed everywhere today from the White House to campuses across America and will hopefully have a continuing legacy for generations to come.
The civil rights leader from Atlanta, Ga. wanted people to use their imaginations, to shoot for the stars and dream beyond all measures. He wanted everyone to be included, and I cannot think of a better generation than this one that embodies his message, especially when it comes to sports.
Our country has recently seen some historic events, including the election of the first black president, but that is just scratching the surface. Tennis star Venus Williams became the first black woman to be ranked number one in the Open Era on Feb. 25, 2002. In 2006, the NFL saw its first black coach in Tony Dungy, who led a team to a Super Bowl victory. In 2008, the NBA had its fifth black coach in history win the NBA Finals with Doc Rivers at the helm of the Boston Celtics. Additionally, in the summer of 2013 Jason Collins came out as the first openly gay athlete to compete in any major North American sport.
Those are just a few examples of what King envisioned when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech Aug. 28, 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial. In the early stages of 2014, his dream is coming to fruition every day.
Clearly his message was not just about a black man having a chance to dunk a ball with a white man on the same court, but to give everyone the opportunity to do so. That is what is great about King’s message. He wanted people of all religions, races and ages to be able to enjoy the rights stated in the constitution—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The nation still has a ways to go regarding social issues when it comes to equality, but major progress has been made since King’s time. MLK Day is a time for reflection and celebration of how far the country has come. It is most importantly a day to remember a man who was able to captivate a nation and bring people together.
Each generation has the responsibility and moral obligation to leave the world better than they inherited it. The best way to truly honor King is to implement his social justice agenda for everyone and keep it going for years to come. Perhaps no public figure captured the spirit of this cause better than the late Sen. Ted Kennedy who said, “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”