Message to the Congress of Racial Equality on the Observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 16, 1986

I am delighted to send my warmest good wishes to all the distinguished guests attending the annual Ambassadorial Reception of the Congress of Racial Equality. I send special greetings to Roy Innis, the Chairman of CORE, and one of America's outstanding civil rights leaders.

This year's event stands out as a very special milestone, because it is being held as a prelude to the first observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a National Holiday. King's was truly a prophetic voice that reached out over the chasms of hostility, prejudice, ignorance, and fear to touch the conscience of America. He challenged us to make real the promise of America as a land of freedom, equality, opportunity, and brotherhood -- a land of liberty and justice for all.

Dr. King was an uncompromising champion of nonviolence, yet he was often the victim of violence. And, as we know, a shameful act of violence cut short his life before he had reached his fortieth birthday. Although today he is honored with speeches and banquets and monuments, let us not forget that he was once jeered and threatened, fined and jailed. But through it all he never sought revenge, only reconciliation. His unshakable faith enabled him to conquer the temptation to hate and the temptation to fear. His was a triumph of courage and love.

It was almost exactly 30 years ago, on January 30, 1956, that King stood amid the broken glass of his bombed-out front porch and calmed an angry crowd bent on vengeance. ``We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence,'' he told them. ``We must love our white brothers . . . We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out across the centuries -- `Love your enemies.' This is what we must live by.''

Martin Luther King understood that there can be only one answer -- brotherhood. He spoke of a ``faith'' that would ``be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.''

He made it possible for all of us to move closer to the ideals set forth in our Declaration of Independence: that ``all men are created equal,'' equal because our Creator -- not the state -- has endowed us all with certain unalienable rights, and that it is the duty of the state to secure and protect those rights.

In saluting Martin Luther King, I also salute those who like Roy Innis have picked up the banner that fell 18 years ago from the hands of the slain Dr. King. I salute all those who have continued to work for brotherhood, for justice, for racial harmony -- for a truly color-blind America where all people are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

To them I say, never, never abandon the dream. Never forget that this is America, the land where dreams come true. And take heart -- look how far we have come! God bless you all.