Opinion: MLK’s legacy of changed hearts, minds

People know you are a major historical figure when you are identified with just the letters representing your name. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of those historical personalities known simply as MLK.

MLK is a benchmark in our history because he led a movement that changed hearts and minds about the promise of our Founders. Namely, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

MLK was not seeking more than that creed. He just wanted this nation to live up to that creed. Major milestones to that end were achieved with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

I and millions of other people witnessed the struggle and the violence leading up to those historic legislative achievements, having graduated from high school in 1963. I lived to see them, and now to live them, while many others did not. Their fight and sacrifice paved the way for our opportunities today.

Not all hearts in America were changed, because he was assassinated in 1968. His death emboldened the movement to live up to America’s creed, and caused a few more hearts and minds to change.

Just as I and millions of other people were beneficiaries of the legislative achievements of 1964 and 1965, we were also beneficiaries of MLK’s tragic death in 1968, the year following my graduation from Morehouse College. We were beneficiaries not because he died, but because America would rise!

The United States of America has come a long way from its founding with the leadership and tenacity of people like George, Abe, JFK, Reagan, and MLK.

Some people pay too much attention to yesterday, although it’s important to remember, rather than to how we make things better today and tomorrow. As a friend of mine told me recently, people must “Stop dreaming of a better yesterday.”

MLK had a dream of a better tomorrow.

His life and death were not in vain.

Herman Cain is an author, business executive, radio host, syndicated columnist and tea party activist.