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COMMENTARY ON MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY : Remembering Civil Rights Leader Keeps Dream Alive--for All of Us

<i> Kathy McCullough is a city councilwoman in Lake Forest</i>

Living here in South Orange County, I can see the evidence of the great accomplishments brought about by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through his speeches, sit-ins, marches and nonviolent demonstrations in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

By no stretch of the imagination can we believe that his work accomplished all that his heart desired, or that our hearts desired. The dream was for us all to live together as one people, not letting our diversity stop us. We must continue to pursue that dream and make it a reality.

I can remember a day when we could not sit where we wanted on public transportation. Today we can not only sit any place we want, we can even be the driver.

I can remember the day when at my school we had books that were used and torn, with names written in them that were scratched out. I never understood why, until the civil rights demonstrations came along and let me know that I was getting discarded books--and less education.

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Even when I was at the top of my class, I was at the bottom of the classes of America. I did not have the proper equipment. I had the best of my community, but it was not only separate, it was not equal. For our federal dollars, those books we were given were outdated and had been discarded. These are the things the marches were all about.

I cannot say that all of these things have disappeared. Today, we still have bigotry and racism. But today I, or anyone else, can go to the polls to register and exercise our right as American citizens to vote without being screamed at, beaten or killed. The Rev. King helped make that possible. All those rights that we were given as Americans were not a reality for minorities until the nonviolent marches and sit-ins finally made them begin to materialize.

We found freedom. Freedom is not just a word. Freedom is an action. We gained freedom to speak what we felt, to live in a community of our choice, not one that is dictated to us by racism. My grandchildren can go to whatever college they desire. They can have the hope of being the best that they can be as Americans--maybe even being president of the United States. The Rev. King gave us that chance to obtain the American dream.

Many lives were lost during the Civil Rights Movement. Today, in the ‘90s, we can still dream of putting aside our bigotry and differences and working together to build a strong country, a country of love, a country that is one nation, under God.

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A house divided against itself will fall. If a nation is divided against itself, will it fall? People should not be judged by the color of their skin, or their age, sex or what neighborhood they live in. All groups gained rights and opportunities for better housing and jobs because of the Rev. King’s nonviolent work. Observing his birthday each year helps to keep bringing the American dream to reality for all people.


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