- Jeannie Ashford
In Memphis on Martin Luther King Day
National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel
Here at our Memphis office, we walk by the Lorraine Motel often. We never fail to look up at the balcony where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life ended. We don’t always stop, but whatever is occupying our thoughts recedes to the back of our minds. We remember a man who challenged the nation and began the transformation of America not with violence, but with the power of his words.
Dr. King used simple imagery, repetition, and phrasing to reach both the hearts and minds of Americans. Today we celebrate his life on his 70th birthday. Thousands of Memphians are participating in day-of-service events. Across America, many of us will re-listen to MLK’s speeches.
In this city, we remember Dr. King’s last speech, delivered extemporaneously at the Mason Temple in Memphis the night before his life was taken. “Something is happening in Memphis. Something is happening in our world,“ he said, as rain and thunder stormed outside of the church. “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
We’re still marching toward the Promised Land. The power of words will lead the way.