There’s a small, leather-bound Bible that holds special significance for my family. My father, Martin Luther King Jr., used it to prepare his first sermon as a pastor, at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He took it with him on the road, as he fought for freedom, equality, and opportunity. Today, the cover of that book has faded. Some of the pages are torn. No one has used that Bible since my father, and I never thought anyone would.
It’s amazing to think about how far we have come since my father first opened that book almost 60 years ago. The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Bloody Sunday. The March on Washington. The Voting Rights Act. The Poor People’s Campaign. The Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike. Those struggles and sacrifices brought us to this moment. Who would have thought that just 45 years after my father’s death, we would see the re-election of our first African-American president, a vote of confidence from a clear majority of the American people?
Of course, my father would have been the first to point out that what most distinguishes President Obama is not the color of his skin, but the content of his character. At the heart of his vision is our nation’s founding creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Like my father, the President has fought to give all Americans the opportunity to realize their dreams, no matter what they look like or where they come from.
President Obama also shares my father’s belief that everyone has something to offer their communities and everyone has a responsibility to serve. On the Saturday before his first Inauguration, in 2009, I joined the president-elect as we repainted a shelter for homeless teens in Washington, D.C. I was honored that the President and First Lady made a National Day of Service dedicated to my father’s memory part of Inauguration weekend, and I’m thrilled they are continuing that tradition this year. On Saturday, January 19, Americans in all 50 states will come together to lend their neighbors a hand.