There are observances around the world this evening, including Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Myrtle Beach in the Carolinas.The list of names we read is long again this year. You can see them here.
Below is the text of my remarks one year ago this evening. Unfortunately nothing has changed this last year.
If there is to be a better future, we must disturb the present.
If we speak eloquently of the quest for human dignity but lack the courage to put words into action, aren’t they no more than empty words?
If we cannot grant others that dignity which we would claim for ourselves, do we not do an injustice to ourselves and others?
We may wake up each morning wondering if this is the day that our true self will become apparent and if we will be the next to be judged as worthy of violence.
There are people in this room who have lost everything they had in order to be all they were meant to be. The miracle is in learning that our own dignity is worth the price.
Many of us spend a lifetime trying conform to what others think we should be, rather than who we were intended to be. There eventually comes a time when the need to be a real person takes precedence over all else. There comes that defining moment when we must take off the mask and become genuine. Before we can give the world our best, we must first give ourselves our best. We learn that it really is okay to be who we are, no matter who we are.
It is in these defining moments when we learn how to live, rather than to merely survive, when we feel that spark of hope that lies within each of us and come to the realization that our lives have a higher purpose than we ever dreamed.
Tonight we stand upon the shoulders of those who have paved the way for us. Some day people will gather and speak of the progress we made, or the lack of it.
History will be our final judge but above all, may no person have reason to ask, “Why did you wait so long to live?”