FILE - In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday is celebrated this year on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, although the the actual anniversary of his birthday is Jan. 15. The Georgia native, who was born in Atlanta, would have been 83 years old. On Monday, a wreath will be laid at the new King Memorial on the National Mall, in Washington, which opened in August. Since then, the King Memorial Foundation says more than 2 million visitors from around the world have visited the memorial. (AP Photo, File)
THE FIRST AMENDMENT
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Updated: January 14, 2012 5:51PM
“We must learn to live together as brothers or we are going to perish together as fools.”
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke those words in a St. Louis speech in 1964. They’re just as fresh and meaningful today as they were four decades ago. As people in the nation and Indiana pause to mark the holiday named after the civil rights leader, the country is more divided than ever.
It’s a different chasm than the one that erupted during the racially charged ’60s, but one just as menacing. This gulf has been shaped by a 10-year war that drained tax money away and by the ascent of China and India into powerful competitors.
Mixed into a backdrop of distrust and bipartisanship in the Washington climate, Americans are experiencing a gnawing sense of alienation from their political leaders, as reflected by polls’ rating approval for Congress in the teens.
In Indiana, the Legislature is fractured by GOP-endorsed right-to-work legislation, a movement spawned from provisions in the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. Eighteen states quickly adopted right-to-work legislation during the 1940s and ’50s. Oklahoma became the 22nd state in 2001. Indiana is poised to become the 23rd.
If he were still alive, King likely would be walking with union protesters in Indianapolis. Many are echoing his 1961 words, calling right to work a false slogan: “It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining.”
Happy birthday, Rev. King. The country, the states still are learning to live together.