Editorial: Reverend King’s accessible legacy

Great historical figures, especially those who have died, often seem larger than life. Their immense legacies live on through their speeches, addresses, legislations and continuous movements. For those figures fortunate to live during the last several decades, their legacies may even be recorded to audio or film. Such is the case for Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and work.

King’s accomplishments and accolades are numerous. Aside from being a highly educated, intelligent and articulate public theologian and pastor, he was the pinnacle leader of the Civil Rights movement who insisted on peaceful protest and non-violence in both speech and action.

Much of his elegant, well-structured and inspiring oratory is recorded on both film and audio, and much of his written work has been preserved and made available. His natural abilities as the leader of a movement and personal integrity are also recorded in his writings, public addresses and various recordings.

Few others in recent history have crossed and broken through barriers of racial inequality and cultural divides in such profound and lasting ways. While the tragic assassination of King took his immense potential to carry on the work he started — snuffing out a soul that rose above unspeakable abuse and seemingly impossible challenges — his assassination did not take away the body of his past work. His writings and public displays exist in libraries, documentaries and online resources, preserved for generations present and to come.

This week, communities within Leader Publications’ readership celebrated with the rest of the country with organized events and presentations to honor the memory of King. Songs, dances, speeches, essays and meals were shared to locally memorialize an international figure who brought hope to peoples and individuals alike. It is in the celebration of local communities that the accessibility of King’s life and work is made manifest.

It can seem with many figures and leaders, present and historical, that their lives and work is untouchable, or unattainable for the average person. Some figures may seem so larger than life that their presence and absence leave a seemingly irreparable void. King was a man who indeed cannot be replaced. When actors good and bad claim authority over King’s memory, it is the responsibility of all people to remember that he was killed before his work could achieve just resolution, or full fruition.

But during events like the Cassopolis MLK Day celebrations, it’s a comforting reminder that even though King was taken too soon, his memory lives on to bring hope to communities large and small, local and international. King’s impact has lasted not only because of the great things he did, but because of the preservation of his work that can be accessed by the masses. The body of his work, from letters written in a prison cell to speeches made to thousands, is a click or a page turn away.

Readers are encouraged to read, listen and watch material of King and others to bring those truths and values to life in their own lives and communities.

Opinions expressed are those of general manager Ambrosia Neldon, sports editor Scott Novak, and reporters Kelsey Hammon, Sarah Culton and Adam Droscha.

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