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Martin Luther King is best known for his “I Have A Dream” speech, but he was much more than a dreamer. He wanted to be known for his service to others. He served others by spearheading a movement that allowed previously excluded citizens access to education and employment opportunities.
. Many Americans will commemorate his birthday this weekend and some will participate in an act of service. Performing an act of service is the best way to honor his memory. His favorite song was “My Living Will Not be in Vain.” In case you are not familiar here is a sample of the lyrics: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, If I can show somebody he is traveling wrong[then] my living shall not be in vain.” His living was not in vain. Read on.
He was one of the most patriotic Americans in the nation’s history. He believed in liberty and justice for all. As a result of his leadership, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Act). The Act was the first major development in anti-discrimination law in the United States. Before passage of the Act, Jim Crow Laws or legalized racial segregation was prevalent in the South. Discrimination might not have been legal in other parts of the nation, but de facto segregation was/is still pervasive in some parts of the country.
A major component of the Act was the implementation of non-discrimination policies in workplaces and public accommodations throughout the nation. An organization’s non[discrimination policy should reflect its culture and inform behavior to ensure that conduct and processes are equitable. To reduce the presence or appearance of favoritism, organizations subject to the Act were required to set formal job-related criteria to hire, promote and reward as well as compensate based on position, qualifications, and performance. Job postings were required to include an EEO statement. This provision provides clarity to employees on what constitutes acceptable behavior and helps attract and retain good employees.
Although the Act was in place, in February 1968, 1,300 Black sanitation workers in Memphis began a strike to demand better working conditions and higher pay. Less than two months later Dr. King gave his life fighting for equitable compensation for workers. He worked for equal access for all – the American dream.
He simultaneously served by helping the least of these while promoting the Golden Rule, treat others as you want to be treated. His living was not in vain.