On Aug. 28, 1963, American civil rights activist and Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to more than 250,000 supporters.
In that iconic address, he shared his vision for the “beloved community” in which “people of every race, religion and nation could live together in peace and harmony and work together for the common progress of humankind.”
The theme of all six forum addresses at Brigham Young University (BYU) this academic year is “Creating a Beloved Community.” Appropriately, the first of those addresses was given Tuesday morning by Martin Luther King III — the son of the man who made famous (though he did not coin) the phrase “beloved community” in his writings and speeches.
King, a lawyer, human rights advocate and the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr., told BYU students gathered in the Marriott Center that a beloved community is a state of heart and mind that leads “people of every race, religion and nation” to “live together in peace and harmony and work together for the common progress of humankind.”
He called for “a critical mass of active visionaries — people of all races, religions and cultural groups who not only believe that the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. is achievable, but who are also ready to work and sacrifice and suffer, if necessary, to make it a reality.”
“We must affirm the sisterhood and brotherhood of all people — every race, every ethnic group, every religion, young and old, women and men, gay and lesbian, people with disabilities — every person,” King said. “Let us not be distracted by fear, including Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia and all of the other phobias. Let us come forward instead with a vibrant spirit of inclusiveness and say no to racism, sexism, and all forms of bigotry and discrimination and say yes to sisterhood and brotherhood of all humankind.”
Another key, he said, is service. “I was encouraged to learn that Brigham Young University places a strong emphasis upon the importance of community service as part of the student experience,” King said. “Service is a powerful healing force that builds bridges of hope, trust and kindness over gulfs of alienation and distrust. It is a potent force for transformation because it establishes a connection between the server and those who are served.”
King’s first contact with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said, is connected with service. In 2007 or 2008, he was president of the nonprofit Realizing the Dream (which has since merged with the King Center). He and Church leaders, including Elder Robert C. Gay (then an Area Seventy), collaborated to help a small community outside New Orleans recover from a recent storm.
King said some 1,500 Latter-day Saints stayed in the community for several weeks to help its citizens recover.
“That commitment is amazing,” King said. “And for that I will always have tremendous admiration for the Church. But that’s just one of millions of things that you do all the time.”
“Rise up in a vibrant spirit of justice, compassion and love, united and determined to create a better America and world, where people of all races, religions and nations can live together as sisters and brothers in peace and harmony.” —Martin Luther King III