Would you believe me if I told you that I've agreed with what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for since I was five?
When I was little, one of my favorite books by Dr. Seuss was called "The Sneetches." You know the story about the Star-Belly Sneetches that acted like they're better than the Plain-Belly Sneetches. That Star-Belly Sneetches believed they were superior just because they were born with stars on their bellies.
They taunted and discriminated the Plain-Belly Sneetches because they were different. I remember thinking, "What? How does having a star on your belly make anyone better or more privileged -- this is so unfair."
Later, when I learned about Dr. King in school, I realized that just like the Plain-Belly Sneetches, he and many African Americans were judged and treated unfairly. They were taunted and discriminated against for something so trivial -- the color of their skin. Just like the Plain-Belly Sneetches, many African Americans were not allowed to participate in games, refused opportunities, and faced segregations and discrimination everywhere they went.
Dr. King was extremely hurt by the cruelty and injustice from people who judged him and his friends based solely on their skin color and heritage without even knowing the quality of their character. How can such blind justice exist in our country, which was built on freedom and equality?
This harsh early experience shaped his dream for a better world. A world where all people are treated equally with the same rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As Dr. King once said, "I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Many people admire Dr. King for his vision, passion, dedication, integrity and sense of right and wrong. He dared to speak the truth at a time when it was extremely dangerous for him and his family.
He was willing to sacrifice everything for what he believed in, because he believed that, "The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die." He knew he had to act and be the voice for the many people who wanted change, but were too afraid to speak up. How can anyone be so courageous? Dr. King had the courage to speak up against racism because he was speaking the truth. All people have the same dream to be treated with respect and dignity.
When I visited Washington, D.C. over Thanksgiving break, I saw Dr. King's Memorial. His statue was rising out of a huge rock with the saying, "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." Dr. King was that stone of hope to everyone who believed in him.
Even in the most desperate times, he pushed for change because deep in his heart he had faith that the decency in people would allow them to change. He once said, "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
In the end, just like the Sneetches, we decided no kind of person is better than another. People are people -- each one is equal.
Dr. King said, "We may all have come on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now." He also believed that we are all interrelated, "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."
Dr. King has taught me that no matter what, we are all humans, and we all must learn to live together peacefully. He also taught me that to make a difference, you must never lose hope because hope is what gives you the courage to fight for what is right and just.
I will always remember, "The time is always right to do what is right."