Reflections on MLK Day

A year ago, before I launched this blog, I started doing some personal journaling. I used an app call Penzu and captured my thoughts about random things and reflections on the day. On MLK day, last year, I made the following entry and decided to share it here and reflect some more on my thoughts.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I’m riding the train into Chicago. The crowd is a lot lighter than usual as many organizations have the day off. Government services are closed. Schools are closed.

As I reflect on this day, I think about my parents and grandparents, in-laws and relatives, who grew up in the Jim Crow and civil rights movement. What were they thinking when they saw the mistreatment of another person just because they had a different skin tone? When women were, and still are, not given access to jobs or weren’t even accepted in the workplace, how did they react? What did they say when they read about this young black pastor from the south preaching about equal rights for all? Did they watch his
I Have a Dream” speech on the mall in Washington, DC and feel hope and inspiration?

A lot has changed since that day in Washington. We have seen progress for women and minorities. In the eyes of the fortunate, all have equal rights. We elected a black president. A woman won the democratic presidential nomination. Women and minorities run companies and hold positions of power. But to those who are the less fortunate, they still see a world where they don’t have a fair shake. Access to equal education and housing still lag behind. I see it as I’m on this train into Chicago. The landscape changes from my north shore suburban home to the inner city of Chicago. Maybe 20 miles? 30 minutes by train? The haves and the have-nots. All want what’s best for them and their families. We all want to do what’s right for our neighbor and citizens. Most want the world to be a better place. A place where our children and children’s children can enjoy all that they work for.

And on this MLK day, I reflect on those things. What can I do to make my little world a better place? How can I teach my girls about being kind, standing up for what’s right, and helping those who are less fortunate than me? For one, I can lead by example. That hasn’t always been my strong suit. But there’s no better time to do that than today.

So as I ride this train into the city, as I walk through the streets of Chicago, a place where MLK spent some time, I think about the subtle things I can do to make a difference. Holding the door for someone, reaching out to an organization to offer my time to help those in search of a job, and show my girls how to make a difference. One action at a time.

As I read this, I have a different feeling, one year later. While a lot has changed in the 50+ years of that speech, there is still a long way to go. Where there was hope and aspirational ideals about equality and helping one another, our discussions are now about securing borders and keeping the less fortunate out. Our speech is divisive and full of vitriol. Every tweet is met with a counter-tweet of one-upmanship, hatred, and unhealthy conflict. The ability to have a good honest debate to come to agreement has been lost.

Women and people of color are still denied the access and equality to fair wages and good jobs. People are still struggling to get affordable healthcare and have access to decent grocery stores. Leaders are no longer making decisions that are in the best interest of the American people.

But not all hope is lost. Because I see progress and determination. While social media can be a megaphone full of hate, it can also be a great tool for change. Voices are being heard. Movements like the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo are at the forefront of conversation with powerful stories to bring lasting change.

This all starts with the individual. What can I do to make this a better place? How am I investing my time and helping to shape a better tomorrow with my actions today? That’s what I’m reflecting on, today.


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