Thank you to Sister Channabel Latham Morris and Sister Mona Harris for organizing today’s celebration. Thank you to Rev. Ann Marie Bentsi-Addison Posey for your strong spiritual leadership at Union A.M.E. Your continual outreach has effectively touched our community as a whole and we are blessed. Personally, I want to welcome Rev. Dr. Chapple to our Warwick Valley. We look forward to your words today as we celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
“Forward….Together.” This idea is more meaningful now than at any other moment since Dr. King’s life was so tragically and abruptly ended on Apr. 4, 1968. Never has there been more reason to listen to his words, understand his message, and act. Never has there been such urgency to find a way to move forward, together.
The critical word is “we” – it is “We the People” of this great country who are now being tested. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been ordered to work without being paid. As institutions have closed their doors and the ripple effects touch communities throughout the United States, we must wonder how can we talk about moving forward at all? Together? At a moment when we seem so torn apart? But that’s it – this is the time we must find the strength to find solutions.
Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” His words were so simple, so clear and full of intent. A government may shut down but this is no reason for us to shut down. It is a time of challenge and we must have hope, desire, and a voice. We personally may not be able to resolve the problems that have occurred at the top but look at it this way: every word and action has a meaning, every silence or noise an effect. The best ideas start with a desire to change, to reinvent or improve, and often start with a conversation between friends in a cafe, a classroom, a church or a temple or even a garage. They start out small where the grassroots feed.
Maybe that idea is as simple as “Forward Together.” How could two words be such a challenge? If we had the capacity to see the world like children and especially that special realm of magical thinking where anything is possible, maybe then we could find the way. Shedding the yoke of prejudice, politics, and presumption is not easy. To be clear eyed about what is right, to tell the emperor that he needs a new tailor, takes some doing and practice.
If there is a guide in these stormy waters, let it be the words given to us that transformed us as a country. Let the words of Dr. King lead us and let us use them as a tool to find our path and to teach us to do better. We must go forward, and together, because our nation was founded on the belief “that all men and all women are created equal.”
These words alone hold the weight of a nation. And we have Dr. King by our side who made those words live in our hearts.
The above column, written by Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, has been published in the Jan. 23 issue of the Warwick Valley Dispatch.