Here's what so many Americans don't get: Martin Luther King Jr. was our Gandhi. This lesson was not about race, it was about how to leverage change without violence.
He proved that a common man, even in a place as rigid as America, could affect great change. In a country where anyone can own a gun, he chose a different path.
Regardless of your race, he taught our country that commitment could outlast violence. Martin Luther King Jr. deserves his place in history, perhaps even more than the rest. He is one of the greatest role models for leadership in the short history of our country.
Up until almost a year ago, I was the president of the union at work, that represents all the technical and professional workers on campus, for over a decade. It wasn't something I even wanted to do.
If not for the lessons I learned about leadership from Martin Luther King Jr., I would have never become the reluctant leader that I was. I would have never understood the true essence of leadership. I would have never survived emotionally.
The only real perk of leadership is to look back on the people you helped. Other than that, it is a thankless and dangerous job. Mostly dangerous.
For the first time in my life, I learned what it meant to be truly hated. My reputation and job were consistently put on the line. You have no idea how much administrators hate union's, especially in a place like Ohio.
Martin Luther King Jr. understood, and taught the rest of us, the meaning of the greater good. He may have had thousands of people marching behind him, but nobody knew who they were or where they lived. It was Martin that had the target on his chest, and he knew it. And he did it anyway.
The irony most on my mind this MLK Day, 2011, is Arizona, Tucson to be specific. Arizona is the last state in the union that does not recognize this national holiday.
What happened in Tucson is a very old story. Older than dirt. It's what tests the concept that commitment can win over violence.
If Arizona never respects the lessons of Martin Luther King Jr., their children will never understand why their own parents would risk their lives for the greater good. Arizona will never understand the greatest basis for change in American history.
Same for the rest of us. This day is not about race. It is in remembrance of a common man who sacrificed it all for his country. So take a moment, put yourself in this man's shoes, and feel the magnitude of his sacrifice and burden.