Rick Kraft

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never ran for public office. He never said to another, “Vote for me.” Martin Luther King didn’t choose to lead the nation’s civil rights movement: it chose him. Yet in the life he lived his impact on our country and the world is immeasurable. 

Monday we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. If he were still alive today, he would have turned 93 tomorrow. What can we learn from this amazing man?

In 1958, sixty four years ago, Dr. King said, “I neither started the protest nor suggested it. I simply responded to the call of the people for a spokesman.” But what a spokesman he was!

It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, December 5, 1955, four days after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. Earlier that day, Ms. Parks was found guilty for her failure to move back on the bus. 

A group of pastors and community leaders gathered to make plans for a mass meeting that evening to discuss the Montgomery bus boycott that had started that morning. Dr. King attended as just another pastor wanting to end the injustice in Montgomery. 

The group didn’t even have a name. After a discussion, those gathered decided on the name Montgomery Improvement Association. The group then decided it needed officers. The floor was then opened for nomination for president.

From Dr. King’s own words, “As soon as Bennett had opened the nominations for president, Rufus Lewis spoke from the far corner of the room: ‘Mr. Chairman, I would like to nominate Reverend M.L. King for president.’ The motion was seconded and carried, and in a matter of minutes I was unanimously elected.

“The action had caught me unawares. It had happened so quickly that I did not even have time to think it through. It is probable that if I had, I would have declined the nomination. They probably picked me because I had not been in town long enough to be identified with any particular group or clique...”

“I went home for the first time since seven that morning and found Coretta relaxing from a long day of telephone calls and general excitement. After we had brought each other up to date on the day’s developments, I told her, somewhat hesitantly- not knowing what her reaction would be- that I had been elected president of the new association. 

“I need not have worried. Naturally surprised, she still saw that responsibility had fallen on me, I had no alternative but to accept it. She did not need to be told that we would now have even less time together, and she seemed undisturbed at the possible danger to all of us in my new position. ‘You know’ she said quietly, ‘that whatever you do, you have my backing.’

“Reassured, I went to my study and closed the door. The minutes were passing fast. I had only twenty minutes to prepare the most decisive speech of my life. I became possessed by fear. Now I was faced with the inescapable task of preparing, in almost no time at all, a speech that was expected to give a sense of direction to a people imbued with a new and still unplumbed passion for justice. I was also conscious that reporters and television men would be there with their pencils and sound cameras poised to record my words and send them across the nation.

“I was now almost overcome, obsessed by a feeling of inadequacy. In this state of anxiety, I wasted five minutes of the original twenty. With nothing left but faith in a power whose matchless strength stands over against the frailties and inadequacies of human nature, I turned to God in prayer. My words were brief and simple, asking God to restore my balance and to be with me in a time when I needed His guidance more than ever.”

Dr. King’s strength comes from the power of prayer and although unaware, he had been equipped in advance by God to step up and lead the boycott. Dr. King attends a meeting one afternoon as just another pastor and he leaves the meeting as the leader of the cause. 

 The successful Montgomery bus boycott was the catalytic event which started Dr. King on the road to become America’s crusader and most famous civil rights leader. The boycott lasted 381 days and was finally ended when the United States Supreme Court entered its decision outlawing racial segregation on all public transportation.

If Dr. King were around today he would encourage each of us to take risks for what we believe in. In Reverend King’s case, he was a devout Christian. Everything he did he measured by his faith in our creator, God. He recognized that actions bring consequences, but you must act. 

On a plaque on my desk at home are written the words by Dr. King, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Dr. King did not know where his presidency of the Montgomery Improvement Association would lead. He believed in the cause and he was prepared to take a risk for what he believed in. 

Dr. King would scold us for not accomplishing what we need to be accomplishing because we don’t take the first step. He would say if it is the right thing to do, have faith and take that first step. The staircase ahead will be there for you. 

My challenge to you today is to follow Martin Luther King, Jr’s example. Take a risk for what you believe in. Push yourself outside your comfort zone. I don’t know that any of us will have the impact on the world that Reverend King had, but we each have the opportunity to make an impact on those around us. 

Have a passion for a cause and follow your passion. Just as Dr. King modeled for us, make your life count. Don’t wait until tomorrow, start today. 

Just a thought...


Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202-0850.

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