Phil Murphy: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Phil Murphy

I owe my civic engagement to my parents.

At the kitchen table, my mom and dad always made a point to talk about current events and leaders like John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through these conversations, they taught me the values of justice, equality, and compassion.

Even though I’m sure I didn’t fully understand it then, I remember my parents talking to me about the passage of the Voting Rights Act when I was about eight years old. I keep their memory with me today as I proudly serve on the board of the NAACP to continue the march for civil rights and justice for all.

As we remember Dr. King, I can’t help but wonder what my parents would say about today’s society. I know they’d acknowledge the progress we’ve made, but they’d also be frustrated at the injustice and violence that persists today.

When Dr. King was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy quoted his favorite Greek poet and called on Americans “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

Two months later, Bobby, like his brother and Dr. King, was gunned down and killed.

All three of my family’s heroes lost their lives to gun violence — and yet, our generation has failed to do anything to stop the growing epidemic of shootings. In fact, since 1968 more people have been killed in gun-related deaths than on battlefields of all the wars in U.S. history.

In Bobby’s remarks on the day of Dr. King’s assassination, he said “what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.”

Bobby understood what Dr. King understood: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Yet we hear from some that the answer to gun violence is more guns or the solution to injustice is more jails or the prescription to growing income inequality is more tax cuts for the wealthy.

These aren’t paths toward progress. In the words of Dr. King, “they’re a descending spiral begetting the very thing they seek to destroy.”

Today, let us reflect with compassion on how unarmed truth and unconditional love can provide a new way forward to end violence, injustice, and inequality.

Thank you.