Monday, April 27, 2015

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Address of
Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Commonwealth

For centuries, Massachusetts has been at the epicenter for innovation, education, industrial and technological advances, and the pursuit of freedom and justice.  Great leaders and intellectual pioneers have come from and come to our state.  Today, the State House halls and chambers were replete with people who came to recall the words and actions of a man who personified the pursuit for civil rights in our nation and in our time.  Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the General Court from the rostrum of the House Chamber and delivered a speech that helped bring focus to the Voting Rights Act that would become law just a few months later.

“There are still too many individuals who argue and who feel that the problem of racial injustices can only be solved by waiting on time,” said Dr. King.  “Ultimately we must come to see that that human progress never rolls in on the wills of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of the dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God.”

Today’s State House ceremony marked the anniversary of King’s visit to the State House in April of 1965.  Governor Charlie Baker joined the Speaker of the House and Senate President along with several former legislators who were present for the historic address.  King had recalled that President Kennedy had been at the forefront of the effort to secure civil rights for all Americans.  Kennedy, he said, had declared that the race relations problem that the country faced was not a sociological problem but rather a moral one.

Racial discord, ethnic intolerance and violence must yield to civility and a moral sense of a shared society.  Certainly, lawmakers can set the legal parameters for acceptable behavior but the real lessons of Dr. King can be found in how we treat one another as neighbors and as King put it, ‘a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”