“The time is always right to do the right thing.” – dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Sunday, January 15, 2022, would Dr. King will be 94 years old. He was murdered on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39, but he lives on with us for all he did in his fight against hate and discrimination and for his efforts towards acceptance, peace and love.
Portsmouth residents played a role in encouraging our state’s leaders to institute Martin Luther King Jr. Day. During the 1970s through the 1980s, on very cold days and nights, people from Portsmouth marched from New Hope Baptist Church on Pearl Street to Market Square, led by members of the congregation and supported by Mayor Eileen Foley and others. Leaders including Nate Holloway and Dr. Arthur Hilson, brought the long fight to the New Hampshire State House. Finally, after about 20 years, our state became the last in the nation to institute Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the signature of Governor Jeanne Shaheen in 1999.
One of my fondest memories is of a warm, sunny day, June 7, 1999, at noon in front of the State House, when I was assigned the task of reading out the names of dozens of legislators proposing bills recognizing Dr. King co-sponsored. His son was present along with a crowd of several hundred.
That list was long, with many from the Portsmouth area including State Sens. Beverly Hollingworth of Hampton, Burt Cohen of New Castle, and Elaine Krasker and Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth. State representatives included Laura Pantelakos, Jackie Cali-Pitts, Maryann Blanchard and Terie Norelli. The bill passed after a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives by a vote of 212 to 148, with 70 Republicans supporting 142 Democrats to pass, and by a 19 to 5 vote in the Senate with 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans in favour. Politics was put aside, people came together for a good cause.
“Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – dr Martin Luther King Jr.
what would dr Say King this weekend for his 94th birthday? Would he say that we have fulfilled his wish expressed in 1963: “I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character? “
Would he find it annoying that too many Americans seem reluctant to allow our children to have an honest and historically accurate dialogue about our racist past and present? Would he welcome immigrants to our country?
We are a diverse world with hundreds of cultures, religions, languages and lifestyles. How boring would this planet be if we were all the same. Political and philosophical differences are human traits that we hope will never lose; They keep challenging us to become better, to do better. But these differences never have to be based on any racial differences.
“In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silences of our friends.” – dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Our nation has made unfulfilled promises of equality, but we have time to fulfill those promises. dr King showed patience with his leadership, and I think he would be optimistic that, given time, each of us still has the ability to rise above racism or hatred and instead look at the commonalities and similarities between us as people.
“We have some difficult days ahead of us. But I don’t care now. Because I was on the mountain top. And I don’t mind. Like any man, I want to live a long life. Longevity has its justification. But I’m not worried about that now. I only want to do God’s will.” – dr Martin Luther King Jr. shortly before his assassination.
dr King might remind us to cheer for one another on life’s too brief adventure. As his own life proved, life is short in the number of years, even if you live to be 100 years old. But it’s not about the time we have on this planet, it’s about what we do with the time we have. And how we treat each other over time.
“So let freedom ring from the mighty hills of New Hampshire.” – dr Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963 in Washington, DC
Next time: Involving young people in government.
Since 1969, Jim Splaine has served as Deputy Mayor of Portsmouth, a member of the Police Commission and School Board, and a Senator and Representative for the State of New Hampshire. He sponsored the first New Hampshire law that passed Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1979 and several others, including co-sponsoring the law that passed in 1999. He can be reached at [email protected]