By John Horton
“The most dangerous person in the world is one who is sincerely ignorant and conscientiously stupid. You have a moral responsibility to be intelligent.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is that time of year when we celebrate the memory and honor the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If he were alive, Dr. King would be 88 years old on January 15, 2017.
Sometimes I wonder, if he were alive, what would King think about how things have gone in the African-American community, especially among its youth. What would he say? What would he do?
If King were alive, he would probably be putting together a viable “plan.” For, he would realize for us to be a successful people that we are going to need a “plan.” Simply put, if we fail to have a comprehensive and substantive plan, then we, as a people, must plan to fail.
To not fail, King would urge us to always be “intelligent” in our thoughts and deeds. One of the most powerful statements ever uttered by Dr. King was: “The most dangerous person in the world is one who is sincerely ignorant and conscientiously stupid. You have a moral responsibility to be intelligent.” More powerful and poignant words could not have been spoken.
By using “lessons of life,” King would have taught us about the principles and philosophy of historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson: “People who have been restricted and held down naturally condescend into the lower levels of delinquency. When education has been entirely neglected or improperly managed we see the worst passions ruling with uncontrolled and incessant sway. Good sense degenerates into craft, anger wrangles into malignity, restraint which is thought most solitary comes too late, and the most judicial admonitions are urged in vain.”
As King would note, over 80 years later, not too much has changed in many of our African-American families and communities.
If King were alive, he would emphasize that it is now time to develop a holistic “plan” for enabling and empowering our youth, especially those who are most at-risk and/or disadvantaged. We must answer and respond to these youth. For, I, too, believe as Dr. King espoused: “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
Foremost, the “plan” should eventually empower African-American youth to do and provide for themselves and their families in an effective and productive manner. Such empowerment is needed in the form of acquiring social competence and life survival skills of a positive and beneficial nature: literacy and education improvement, work and entrepreneurial attainment, crime and drug free lifestyles, overall personal and familial betterment, and the like.
If King were alive, I think he would ask parents to be responsible and role models for their children, particularly the fathers. He would insist that we “set the example” through our daily attitude, behavior, actions, responsibilities, and intelligence. Our children need to understand that “we mean what we say and say what we mean.”
If he were alive, King would draw upon the old African proverb: “If I discipline myself, no one else will ever have to discipline me; but if I fail to discipline myself, I am asking someone to discipline me.” As King knew, truer words were never spoken. As a people, we need self-discipline and designated priorities.
If Dr. King were alive, he would challenge us to “get the job done.” He would encourage us to put our minds and backs into the tasks before us. He would remind us that we are the “masters of our fates” and the “captains of our souls.” He would preach and teach about PRIDE (Personal Responsibility In Daily Efforts). And, he would inspire us with the ten most powerful words in the universe: “If it is to be, it is up to me!” Yes, he would!
Moreover, King would formulate a “plan” that would inspire us to give our very all … to be the very best we can with what we have. He would want us to be(come) lifelong learners … to instinctively follow the “Socratic Wisdom” that a life unexamined is not worth living. There is no doubt in my mind that King would have led us to the mountaintop … eventually we would have achieved his “dream.”
Now that we know pretty much know what King would think and do about our present circumstances, I guess it is up to us to get the job done for ourselves. Rather simplistic when you think about it. In short, we must “talk the talk and walk the walk.” If we can do this, anything is possible! Therefore, let us work harder and smarter as a people so that we might progress to our rightful place in this society and the larger world.
How I wish King were still alive! But, he’s not. However, his teachings, sacrifices and contributions will always be with us. Therefore, let us draw from his legacy and do what needs to be done. What a great way to show respect and appreciation for the man. Long live the dream! Better yet, let us formulate a “plan” and achieve the dream!
John Horton resides in Norfolk Va. and is a frequent contributor to this newspaper.