(Editor’s Note: The following is a speech given by Siuslaw High School senior Ramiro Ramirez during last Saturday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. “Healing the Divide” event sponsored by the Bahá’ís and held at the Siuslaw Public Library.)
Jan. 22, 2020 — I am both privileged and thankful that I get to once again speak about the great man we know as Martin Luther King Jr.
Or just Dr. King.
Now, most — if not — all of us remember who Martin Luther King Jr. was. He was a man who fought for the equal rights of African American people.
He proved that “Separate, but Equal” could not work.
He endured the hardships of the Southerners who did not welcome change.
He provided the way to give the freedoms and rights all of us have regardless of race, sex and religion.
Fifty-one years, nine months, two weeks and one day after his passing (Yes. I did the math to get that result), his legacy still lives on to this day.
With the information I stated earlier, it is clear that the acts of civil disobedience have worked. African Americans can now vote, sit anywhere they please in a bus, own homes and property, and have an increased pay salary.
Some changes, such as bus riding privileges, seemed to be almost instant while others, such as increased salary, took a while to change.
Pretty unfortunate isn’t it?
You’ve fought for a long time and you deserve to have those changes, but all you get are some minor changes. We can all agree that that wouldn’t be fair.
But there is one important factor that can help fight for change tremendously.
We can all agree that kindness has its excellent perks. Kindness throughout the rallies and strikes helped fuel the Civil Rights movement. In fact, before the African Americans joined MLK Jr’.s sit-ins, they would go to camps where they would learn to control their impulses.
They would learn how to be cool under pressure after being shoved and told racial slurs.
Eventually, they made it and joined the rallies throughout The South.
And they were kind to one another.
Kindness helped others join in and brought together whites as well. You see, the power of kindness can really go a long way. Even in times of hardship, kindness can help multiple people through it — and eventually, you could even make friends with your “enemy.”
Maybe that’s why they say “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer?”
So, to all the people fighting for equal rights, I encourage you to use kindness. Even if it doesn’t change the opposition, don’t feel offended by it — just acknowledge the fact that they can’t embrace change with open arms. When the time is ready, they’ll show it by action, because actions speak louder than words.
And kindness is the most powerful of actions we can share with others.