Many summations of the life of the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King, read, more or less, as follows: Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Gandhi. King has become a national icon in the history of modern American liberalism. (Wikipedia)
It’s all true and all too incomplete, for there comes a time when you grow older and, in the course of growing older, you begin to realize that your heroes are not only legends found in history texts but were real men of flesh and blood, like yourself.
Normal ordinary men who had much the same fears and frailties as yourself, and yet, when called upon to do great things in impossible circumstances, they rose above their human frailties.
Washington, Lincoln, King.
King was not great or brave just because he was a civil right’s leader or an African-American in a time of oppression.
He was those things. But mostly, and more importantly, he was a very real and very brave human being who looked evil in the face and would not back down.
He faced down not only hatred from too much of his own society, but also his own fears and the fears of nearly an entire nation.
And he spoke and wrote and led with mind boggling elegance.
It is not until we compare our heroes with ourselves, rather than against other heroes, that we begin to appreciate their greatness, their grandeur, their bravery.