Martin Luther King: “I have been to the mountaintop”

Baku, January 15, AZERTAC

“I have been to the mountaintop.”

“This is one of the most memorable lines of Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech, delivered the day before an assassin’s bullet ended his remarkable life. Dr. King inspired me, and my mind stays on this line every time I listen to the speech, something I do every year on January 15,” says an article by US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Earle Litzenberger.

The article reads: “Often, I find myself thinking about the word “mountaintop” and the imagery it evokes. As beautiful a speech as it was, that one word always strikes me as inaccurate. Hearing him pronounce it, I wonder: would Dr. King ever have imagined that 40 years after his death an African-American would take the oath of office to lead our country as President? Could Dr. King have conceived of the heights the American civil rights movement would achieve, given that, at the time of his passing, African-Americans were still forced to sit in the back of public busses?

And having spent nights in jail cells and received countless blows from police truncheons for refusing to accept second-class status in his own country, would he ever believe that one day his birthday would be celebrated as a national holiday?

At the same time, there are also other, less fortunate perspectives, that show that the top of the mountain remains a distant point even today. For all the gains we have made, we have many miles to go before we can truly be satisfied with where we are as a country — a country that proclaims all people are created equal. The events of the past few years have shown many of us – myself included – that being an American has not meant the same thing for all of our citizens, especially our fellow citizens who are African-American.

But the tumultuous events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement have also given me cause for confidence that, if we as a nation have not reached the mountaintop, we are surely climbing towards it. As Dr. King said in 1964, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Seeing millions of Americans, of all colors and persuasions, peacefully protesting and demanding that our nation live up to its founding ideals, continues to give me great hope. It is what is right. All people deserve respect, and all people deserve equality.

Dr. King showed us the power of the individual. Empowered by a hunger for change, he demonstrated that a single person, harnessing the power of his words and his example, can overcome decades of injustice to reshape the trajectory of an entire nation.

So on this Martin Luther King Day, I will once again take the time to sit down and listen to Dr. King’s final speech. I will once again reflect on the man and the nation he strived to change. I will once again ask myself, “am I doing what is right?” I know that the time is right, the time to act is now, to be inclusive, to respect others, to work for the view from the mountaintop that Dr. King so eloquently described. And I am sure I will once again say to myself that we may have not yet reached that mountaintop – and we may not in my lifetime – but it is most definitely in view.”


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