It is a testament to the enduring legacy left by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that his words and deeds continue to touch the generation of young people who have come to know him exclusively through history books, documentaries and the recollections of older relatives.
For many of these youngsters, Dr. King remains a source of inspiration, a beacon to guide them through the troubled waters of their own times.
On these pages, young people from around the country explain in their own words the profound effect that Dr. King has had on their lives and reveal the personal meaning that the life of this great leader holds for them.
Shirley Shealey, age 12 Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School Atlanta
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been such an inspiration to me. I thank God for having sent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to us. He brought Black people together. He taught us that Black and White must learn to work well together if America is to survive. He taught us that in order to pull oneself up by his boot straps, one must first have a boot strap to pull up.
I've learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that Blacks must desire a piece of the economic pie. I've learned that situations can be changed through non-violence. For too long, many Black Americans believed that in order to change oppression, violence was the way. But Dr. King taught us that oppressive conditions and the plight of Blacks can be changed through peaceable methods, such as marches, demonstrations and boycotts.
To me, Martin Luther King Jr. means that I have the power to make a difference. It was Martin Luther King Jr. who made me realize I am somebody and that we Black people shall overcome the difficult times someday.
To me, Dr. King is a legend. He was a God-fearing, proud, determined, peaceful and loving man. He was like E.F. Hutton--when he spoke, people listened. He had the kind of charisma only great leaders have.
If Dr. King were here today, he would urge Black people to go back to the old teaching of love thy neighbor as thyself. He would preach that we should do away with violence and replace it with love. He would tell us to keep drugs out of schools, neighborhoods and homes, and replace them with strong minds and the will and determination to succeed.
Alisha Boler, age 16 Hirsch Metropolitan High School Chicago
For many years I have heard about the many great things that Dr. King has done for African-Americans and other put-down races. But never have I been asked to tell what he really means to me.
Dr. King's accomplishments mean a great deal to me all by themselves. They mean that now I can sit down at the counter of a restaurant and eat a meal without being taunted to move. Also, I am able to drink from the same public water fountain as Whites. I can go to a public school with White children without being beaten up. I am also able to go to a movie and enter through the front of the theater. Thus, Dr. King's accomplishments have enabled me to live a freer and more peaceful life. And for that I am thankful.
Dr. King means that now, as a female African-American, I can live the life that my grandparents and their parents couldn't have. I have a chance to survive in a world that so many years ago was unfair to Africa-Americans.
Thanks to Dr. King and other heroes of the civil Rights Movement, I have a chance as an African-American to prove that the color of my skin is not the only significant thing about me. I can express my feelings about the world without being afraid. I can show the world that I possess as much talent as any other person.
I cannot really express my feelings about Dr. King simply. But if he were alive today and I would sit down and talk to him, I would let him know what a great impact his speeches and sermons have had on me and the world.
If he were alive, I'm sure he would continue to tell the world how important it is for us to love each and everyone who walks this earth no matter what the color of his skin may be. …