Stand Stronger and Fight Harder

Who We Are | 01/20/2020

Jonah Edelman
Chief Executive Officer

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is generally an opportunity to take stock and recommit to making a difference. But, in 2020 it’s more than that. There’s a fierce urgency to this moment.

More than a half century since Dr. King’s death, white supremacists are emboldened, inequality is accelerating, and economic mobility is declining. 

If you care about social and racial justice, about basic decency, about living in a society where children can rise up economically through education and hard work, then it’s time to stand stronger and fight harder.

Even though it would make our country far healthier, stronger, and safer to meet the basic needs and tap the potential of all of our people, we don’t. Why? Because all lives aren’t valued remotely equally. 

Just look at the massive inequities in how schools are funded and the prevalence of uncertified teachers, especially in under-resourced communities. Look at our nation’s grossly unfair and wasteful criminal justice system or the astounding level of traumatizing gun violence in communities of color. Consider the crushing student debt shackling all but the most privileged young adults and rigged college admissions processes that favor kids whose parents can afford costly test prep.

If you care about fairness, about equality of opportunity, about living in a society where people’s life chances are determined by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, the zip code where they live, or their country of origin then there’s only one choice: stand stronger and fight harder. 

My mother named me after Martin Luther King, Jr., but growing up, she made clear it wasn’t just Dr. King who made the Civil Rights Movement happen. It was Ella Baker, Medgar Evers, Bob Moses, John Lewis, Diane Nash, James Lawson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Amzie Moore, James Forman, and so many other activists, and it was countless everyday people who, as Ms. Hamer famously said, “were sick and tired of being sick and tired.“

Today, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., please commit to standing stronger and fighting harder.

Today’s problems are no worse than those our forebears confronted through sustained, courageous action. And, let’s be honest, the risks and sacrifices required to stand up for social and racial justice in 2020 are nothing compared to the risks and sacrifices required by the unheralded heroes on whose shoulders we stand. 

We are the people and this is the time, to stand stronger and fight harder.

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