‘Beloved Community’: MLK’s dream of America’s future

By Maya GreenJanuary 17, 2024

MLK stands with crowd holding signs.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Aug. 28, 1963. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — In the face of racial injustice, the nation needed a champion to fight for citizens’ civil rights. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. answered that call. King dedicated his life to equality and challenged the nation not to judge people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, observed on the third Monday of January each year, marks the birthday of the American civil rights leader and activist. In 1994, Congress designated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a National Day of Service. The theme of the day, “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” uplifts individuals to dedicate the day to community service to remember of King’s outstanding legacy and instill his principles of unity and equity throughout the world.

The U.S. Army is committed to the ideals of King, and on this National Day of Service, we honor his dedication to equity and inclusion.

Birth of a Martyr

King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on Jan. 15th, 1929. The cornerstones of his activism were based on non-violence and civil disobedience, both of which were inspired by his Christian faith and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

King, a Baptist minister and social activist, became a notable figure during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.

Black Americans risked jail time for accessing public accommodations like drinking fountains, parks, restrooms, restaurants, and hotels. Their voting rights were denied by hypocritical and discriminatory rules. Even if they attempted to register to vote, they could be fired from their jobs or face vigilante violence.

King rose to prominence as a leader in 1955 during the Montgomery bus boycott when he was selected to lead the effort to desegregate the bus services.

As the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King helped organize many Civil Rights Movement actions. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brought together the nation’s most prominent civil rights leaders and tens of thousands of marchers to impel the United States government for equality. The pinnacle of this event was the influential and most memorable speech of King's career. Widely known as the "I Have a Dream" speech, the words of King influenced the Federal government to take direct actions toward racial equality. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964; in 1965 he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches to advocate for Black voting rights.

‘Beloved Community’

King imagined a different future for America, an America he called the “Beloved Community.” However, building this Beloved Community required a major shift in human understanding and compassion. It meant looking beyond external differences to see the union of all people. It also meant finding a way to deal with our grievances without hatred in a way that recognized the interconnectedness of all humanity and allowed us to move forward together.

His activism and moral righteousness helped usher in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while traveling to lead a march in support of striking sanitation workers.

He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

A Day of Service

It is the duty and responsibility of all Americans to continue his unfinished work and push to realize his vision of a united world. Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions, and moves us closer to King’s vision of a beloved community. Service breaks down barriers by bringing people from different backgrounds together and benefits those who choose to serve.

The Army welcomes any person who is qualified to serve, regardless of background. Our Army is capable, ready, and focused on building cohesive teams. Ensuring Soldiers respect each other builds a stronger Army. Diversity in background, experiences, and values helps the Army maintain a viable advantage in the competition for talent.

MLK Day at APG

The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense hosted the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.

Observed annually in January, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance encourages all to engage in public service and promote peaceful social change.

This year's event will feature a panel discussion on Dr. King's legacy with three distinguished guests.

Watch a recording of the event here: https://dod.teams.microsoft.us/l/meetup-join/19%3adod%3ameeting_81591b9ac6594794b45eafc59e52ff3e%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%228903a443-af33-4ed4-acf5-ee613bcb2f59%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%228d80eb68-385b-4ec6-9a31-06297d5f4402%22%7d