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Today we celebrate a man of extraordinary courage and conviction who lived by example. He preached unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence. He also walked the walk. His dream was to see a multi-racial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation.

I have been blessed by the friendship of Andrew and Carolyn Young.  Andrew Young has served as a pastor, U.S. Congressman, Mayor of Atlanta, a United Nations Ambassador, Co-Chair of Good Works International and was a close friend of Dr. King. Along with our treasured mutual friend Jessie Pottsdamer-Watson, Andrew Young, his lovely wife Carolyn and I have enjoyed dinners, a beautiful Christmas concert at Spellman College, celebrations and wonderful conversations in a variety of settings. I am inspired by the Youngs, and my friend Jessie’s, goodness and commitment to their faith, values and mission.

Hearing Andrew Young’s account of the day his dear friend Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed is powerful and heart-wrenching. They were together in Memphis and even had a fun pillow fight at the motel before preparing for a dinner and a rally. Dr. King came out on the balcony of their motel. Andrew Young was in the parking lot. He called up to his friend suggesting that he go back in for a coat. Dr. King was in the middle of saying “Do I really need a coat?” when the shot rang out. That terribly disturbing and life-changing moment has had an impact on the entire world. Andrew Young was a trusted, valued friend of Dr. King’s. Through leadership, several books, teaching and speaking, he carries Dr. King’s message and vision for a world of reconciliation, peace and love. I have always admired their efforts to find the most loving way to resolve a conflict.

To honor this special day, here are a few favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes:

  • “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

  • “Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.” 

  • “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

  •  “By opening our lives to God in Christ, we become new creatures. This experience, which Jesus spoke of as the new birth, is essential if we are to be transformed nonconformists … Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.”

Tell Me: What’s your favorite memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?