The Soul Force of Dr. King

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking.  Photo: Julian Wasser

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking.
Photo: Julian Wasser

Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. — Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is no small irony in one of history’s most eloquent orators giving us a pass on subjects and verbs agreeing, but the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did. Because soul always takes precedence over syntax. Today, we honor Dr. King, who was taken from us violently 50 years ago. But only physically. His great spirit lives on in the way his words, actions and love continue to touch our souls. A half century later, Dr. King remains a powerful soul force.

We cherish Dr. King for his courage, for his fierce outrage, for his gentle demeanor…for his fealty to the song that springs from the eternal soul. Bounded by truth, his unrelenting commitment to shining light on injustice embodied a way of being that will continue to encourage seekers of fairness, righteousness and equality for generations to come. Dr. King teaches us to use our voices and the ingenuity of faith and purpose to unite against the overt and insidious racism that infects our nation and the world. While the goals of his mission remain so sadly unaccomplished, Dr. King gains ground to this day by inspiring us not only to address injustice but to confront the biases we harbor within ourselves and to demand change peacefully.

Even in dialogue. Holding humanity in high regard was a centering force for Dr. King. He would object to the frightening lack of civil discourse that currently eats away at the very foundation of our democracy. He accorded respect to all, regardless, hurling decency back in the faces of those who opposed him and his ideologies…even those who resorted to violence as a form of suppression.

Dr. King’s powerful and thoughtful communications inspired millions, and his speeches and letters continue to invigorate us. He spoke his soul’s truth, and in turn, much of the world responded positively and no one’s forgotten. We strive to live up to his monumental kindness, empathy and intelligence. Anchoring in soul helps us get there. When we speak our authentic truths, we touch each other in the heart space—indelibly and unforgettably—just as Dr. King was rendered immortal by his soul force.

Dr. King adapted Ghandi’s practice of Satyagraha—an incapacity towards violence because of a deep motivation by compassion, love and empathy—to his culture, faith and language. Satyagraha is sometimes translated from the Indian Gujarati language as “love force” or “truth force”. Dr. King called it “soul force,” as he did in his world-changing I Have A Dream speech in 1963:

In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Let your soul tell your story. Dr. King did. You too could change the world.

We need you today, Dr. King. We need you always and everywhere. Thank you and God bless.

Ellen Yui