Denise Blackburn-Gay, APR, Fellow PRSA
Ethics Officer, South Carolina PRSA

As we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is worth reflecting on the place he holds in American history. Along with our past Presidents Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln, King is recognized as one of our nation’s most effective advocates of the American ideal.

Following graduation from Morehouse College in 1948 with a degree in sociology, King entered Crozer Theological Seminary, a school whose unorthodox reputation and liberal theological teachings suited the young civil rights crusader.

At Crozier, King studied the great philosophers in search of answers to his questions: ‘what is justice,’ ‘what deserves to be defended,’ and ‘what can I do?’ It was the way in which Dr. King later answered these questions that transformed American history.

In combating segregation, King could have chosen the path of his contemporaries as opposed to his method of nonviolent civil disobedience. Holding steady to his liberal arts education and Christian faith, King tackled the issue differently.

Much like Lincoln, King urged Americans to return to the principles of the Declaration of Independence. He encouraged them to “take courage to renew the battle which our founding fathers began, so that truth, justice, mercy, and the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished.”

Dr. King hoped that together we would build a better world based on mutual respect, peace, and justice. Dr. King’s legacy begins where his life ended: “There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions, but we must keep going.”

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