I join the entire Virgin Islands community in commemorating the anniversary of the birth of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — civil rights activist, man of action and man of God.
It is interesting that the U.S. Virgin Islands was the first place in the country to make this day a legal holiday. Because of our foresight in recognizing that Dr. King was more than deserving of this honor, Virgin Islanders everywhere should be proud that we led the entire country in this regard. Today, it is a federal holiday observed by nearly all states and territories.
As we reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King the activist, we must recognize the challenge before us to act out and not simply dream. We must rise to the contemporary challenge to act out against injustice, act out against poverty and prejudice, act out against unjust laws and practices. We must act to put into practice the tenet that love is the most potent weapon.
On an individual level, today, right here, we must ask ourselves: Are there issues for which we should break our silence? Are there people in our community who have become invisible to us? Are we willing to be unpopular and fight for just causes? Are we desensitized and dehumanized by the twin drugs of complacency and convenience?
We must, each and every one of us, be everyday activists. I most vehemently exhort all to act each day with excellence and fight the ever-rising tide of mediocrity — every day! Let me repeat this clarion call: Each day we must commit ourselves to be excellent in all our actions. This consistent and conscious call will be our most fitting legacy to the memory of Dr. King.
I commend and applaud our good efforts as we marched and raised our voices against a fiscal policy which we saw as an unjust pocketbook issue. But, my friends, we are presented with opportunities for activism and excellence each and every day: Where is our public outcry when our children attend schools in hot, unaccredited classrooms and our teachers are not adequately compensated? Where is our public outcry when we learn that more than 40 percent of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens live in poverty? Where is the public outcry of 42 Virgin Islanders in 2002 becoming murder victims? Where are we in demonstrating our defense of the least among us? What would Dr. King say?
My fellow Virgin Islanders, like Dr. King, we must be everyday activists as well as dreamers. We must act at all times with the focus on excellence.
Editor's note: Sen. Malone also sent the Source a copy of the remarks he would be delivering at the St. Thomas interfaith service marking Martin Luther King Day on Monday evening at Memorial Moravian Church. Following are excerpts from that speech not included in his comments published above.
So many present-day celebrations commemorating the life and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. focus on his "dream" and on Dr. King as a dreamer. While there is much merit to this perspective, it clouds the more important fact that Dr. Martin Luther King was first and foremost an activist — a man of excellence in deeds and action who sacrificed his life for his beliefs and our greater good; an activist who gave up the comforts and security of a middle-class family lifestyle; an activist who gave up the security and prestige of being a pastor in a large, prosperous and well-established congregation.
Dr. Martin Luther King consistently challenged the status quo, consistently challenged unjust laws. Dr. King demonstrated and defied, he protested and preached, Dr. King mobilized and marched; most importantly, Dr. King led by example. Dr. King exemplified excellence and lived a life of action. He did not dawdle and daydream …
This challenge to be social and political activists must begin with our churches. These words uttered by Dr. King more that three decades ago are truer now than they were then: "There was a time when the church was very powerful. Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often vocal sanctions of things as they are." Our churches have a responsibility to lead the charge …
Now, do not mistake my call to action as a careless or capricious call. This responsibility for activism and excellence must be carefully considered. It is not good enough to raise the cry and sound the alarm because we simply want to hear the sound of our own voice. This privilege comes with great responsibility. We must act with urgency at all levels, and we must be aware that our past complacency means that we are now in danger of being left behind in this region, this country — this global village we call home.
Our activism and excellence must touch the least and the greatest among us. This must take the form of consistent and concerted actions — actions large and actions small, all of the time. Our everyday activism must include the conscious and consistent practice of excellence. If we do this, then excellence will become a habit and activism, a way of life.
I want to close with this thought by Dr. King: "I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may." …
We have a long road to travel together. I ask for your patience and prayers as we travel it together. Beginning on this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and from this day forward, let us focus on these words by Dr. King: "There is no crown without a cross. I wish we could get to Easter without going to Good Friday, but history tells us we got to go by Good Friday before we can get to Easter. Before you can get to Canaan, you have a Red Sea to cross."
Dr. King knew that we cannot accomplish anything overnight, but with patience and perseverance he knew that we could move mountains. Let us move mountains together. Let us do the will of God.
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