As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, I want to address what we heard from the president last week about immigrants from certain countries. His comments were unacceptable, and in my opinion, beneath the dignity of the office of the president of the United States. His characterization stands in stark contrast to virtually everything for which Dr. Martin Luther King stood, and denigrates our employees and their families who have roots and cultural connections in the referenced countries.
The sentiments expressed by the president do not speak effectively to the very real, knotty challenges of immigration. Rather, they pander to and foster a baser darkness which unfortunately exists—and has for time immemorial—in human society. Every time it has been allowed to fester and take root in a country, particularly in its leaders, it has led to unaccountable human suffering.
The light against such darkness lies within each of us personally committing to redouble our own efforts to be inclusive and embrace and foster the principles of equality and human rights in our everyday lives. The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are not quaint sentiments. They define our beliefs and values as Americans. They set the standard by which we live as citizens of this great nation—and how we regard all men and women.
We are a nation of, by, and for the people and must always hold ourselves accountable to the values on which our nation was founded. We should never excuse or explain away bigotry—or let it become normalized in our lives, our homes or places of work. When we encounter it, we need to challenge ourselves to refute it and look for ways to emulate people who are or have been shining examples of our country’s aspirations.
We hold up Dr. King as a great leader in our country’s history and dedicate a day to his memory because he spoke, and courageously acted, to encourage deeper unity and greater equality in our society. And he inspired others to do so as well. His work, words and example constitute a living, ever-present call upon us all. “Make a career of humanity,” he said. “Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
Today, I ask that you contemplate how you can intensify your own light so that together our collective light can overcome darkness, keeping the door open to all of humanity. I think if we search our hearts each of us will see opportunity to be better, to do better. We can be more welcoming to strangers, get to know the less visible people with whom we work, and reach out more intentionally to our neighbors.
I often speak about the value of hope. We are moving forward with deep hope, a belief in our Cause, and the courage to drive needed change in the health care system. Dr. King’s words remind us of the importance of hope. “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps you moving, you lose the courage to be, that quality that helps you go on despite it all. And so today I still have a dream.”
Light begets light, and hope begets hope. Let us take these words and commit to being examples of that for each other.