Martin Luther King Jr. Day was Monday, Jan. 20. All around social media, people posted inspiring quotes from the heroic leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
A particularly inspiring moment in the days leading up to the observance came on Jan. 17, when Mia Roberts, 9, a student at Arthur Dixon Elementary School, won an MLK Jr. oratory competition featuring fourth- and fifth-grade Chicago Public Schools students.
Roberts, whose family lives in the West Pullman neighborhood, was the winner of the competition, which required participants to answer a question: What would King’s vision for America be in 2020?
Roberts, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, said King’s vision would be the same, contending, “We don’t know who to trust. We see police cars ride by with the words written on them … ‘to serve and protect,’ but I’m not so sure anymore with all the bad news I hear about them and see about them on TV. Not all police officers are bad, just like … all people are not all bad. But, a change definitely needs to take place.”
The comments might draw the ire of some police supporters, but Roberts’ father, Michael Roberts, a Chicago police officer, said, “It felt like you were listening to a grown-up.”
Sure, Michael Roberts would undoubtedly not criticize his daughter in the media, but it was refreshing to hear a police officer not just brush aside criticism of his profession.
Being able to accept criticism and self-reflection are qualities that all mature adults possess.
The FBI posted on social media that, outside its academy, a stone is inscribed with a quote from King: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Those are certainly noble words to remember, but we can never forget that former longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover labeled King as “the most dangerous man in America,” a reminder that those who protest—even as peacefully as King did—aren’t always revered.
What would King’s vision be for America in 2020? It’s a bold task to try and answer that question; but Roberts offered some tips in her speech, and it’s easy to imagine King saying the same things: try to walk in others’ shoes, and keep an open mind.
As this nation continues to strive for racial equality, the time is always right for civility.