he holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been infused with special meaning this year, coming just days after the Tucson massacre that left six dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on the critical list. The civil rights leader, who was cut down by an assassin's bullet in 1968, left a message of nonviolence, justice, and tolerance that is needed more than ever, said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal at a tribute to King on Thursday, and "deserves to be repeated through the ages." How can reflecting on King's life help heal a nation still reeling from the tragedy in Arizona? (Watch talk-show host Tavis Smiley discuss King's legacy)
Remember King's final speech: King's last address, entitled "I See the Promised Land," was about the civil rights struggle, says Andrew Belonsky in Death and Taxes, but "the message reverberates today." He said our divided nation faced a choice between "nonviolence and nonexistence." Similarly, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in Tucson, recently said we need to tone down our rhetoric and partisanship. "Let King's death and Giffords' shooting not be in vain. We should heed their words."
"In Martin Luther King's final speech, shades of Giffords' shooting"
Nonviolence is a position of strength, not weakness: It's only natural that, after the "horrific events in Tucson," we should reflect on the great leaders we have lost to violence, says Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) in Gant Daily, including Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln. And we should remember that King's path is one of strength, not weakness. "Nonviolence," King said, "is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."
"Abraham, Martin, and John"
King knew violent words can lead to violent acts: When four African-American girls were killed in the bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, says the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the Chicago Sun-Times, Martin Luther King declared that Alabama's Gov. George Wallace had blood on his hands. King didn't think Wallace wanted those children to die, but he knew that Wallace had "cynically fanned racist fires with his rhetoric and actions." Today, we need to remember that hateful rhetoric can influence the "mentally unstable" people who commit these crimes.
"Hate speech lit blaze in Arizona"
We should repeat King's words — publicly, and often: It's a "grim coincidence" that the shootings came just before Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, says Dale McFeatters at Scripps News. But both this tragedy and King's assassination reflect a nation "badly off course." To remind us of our founders' vision, members of the House recently read the Constitution aloud. Maybe they should read King's "I Have a Dream" speech to remind us that what leaders say "does not have to be all sound bites and invective; it can be a soaring appeal to the best in us and our form of government."
"Tucson and echoes of Martin Luther King Jr."
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