Last month we lost a hero. Nelson Mandela, who died last December 5th at the age of 95, was a personal hero of mine. He fought for and stood to represent a philosophy that I have embraced all my life, that all people are equal in the sight of God. According to the bible, God made man in His own image and likeness. It doesn’t say that he created some men that way and other men in a different image. We were all created the same; black, red, brown, yellow, and white, all in the image and likeness of God.
There is a mathematical axiom that says if two things each equal a third thing; those two things must also equal each other. If all men are created in the image and likeness of God, then we must also be the image and likeness of each other. Any differences between us are of our own creation.
Other heroes of mine who embraced this same philosophy are Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Each of these men persevered through great hardships in their pursuit of equality for all men. Each left a legacy.
For Lincoln, the legacy took the form of the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment abolished slavery in the United States and set the stage for full equality. Two years later, African-Americans were granted citizenship, and two years after that the right to vote. Lincoln embodied a spirit that Mandela spoke of when he said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
It is one thing to be granted a right, and another to be able to exercise that right. Rights that exist only on paper are no rights at all. Such was the cause of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by working to hold the country to its own standard as stated in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” King saw that even after a century of freedom, African-Americans were still suppressed and denied the full expression of their rights under the Constitution. His legacy is still being defined as this country continues to wrestle with the issues that he drove into public debate.
This month, we will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A King Day celebration will be held at the Albany Civic Center on January 20th to honor the man and his achievements. How we honor Dr. King, and more importantly, what we do as a result of his influence are the factors that are still shaping his legacy today. At this year’s event, the featured speaker will be Ms. Xernona Clayton.
Many people can speak about Dr. King, but few can speak from their personal knowledge of him. Ms. Clayton organized many events for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, under the direction of Dr. King. She had a close relationship with Dr. King and his wife. She currently serves on the board of directors of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. This is a great opportunity to really get a feel for the man’s vision of the future and to become a part of his legacy.
I am a realist and understand that not everyone shares my philosophy that equality should be shared equally; but if you do and can work it into your schedule, please consider attending this year’s King Day celebration at the Albany Civic Center on Monday, January 20, at 5:00pm. Tickets may be purchased from the Civic Center box office. This is your opportunity to begin 2014 in a meaningful way. This could even become your theme for the year. I hope to see you there.
Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.