Sunday, January 15, 2017

It Is Again Another New Year

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of
"  Q
uoted in Let the Trumpet Sound : A Life of Martin Luther
King, Jr
 (1982) by Stephen B. Oates
The beginning of every year is usually a time of contemplation for me, so it doesn't feel all that late that my first post of 2017 comes two weeks into January. This is also a holiday weekend in the United States, when we mark the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. What does amaze me is that I have only managed to previously mark this date only once here on the blog. I have been a U.S. VISTA member (twice), and for all CNCS members (Corporation for National and Community Service, which incorporates all of the various U.S. service programs, including Americorps) this weekend is a fairly big deal. During my last VISTA year I participated in a community service project on the actual holiday that was different from the site at which I was stationed. I remember it being not only personally fulfilling, but generally a lot of fun, as I was alongside all of my VISTA mates as well as other active members of the CNCS community in my area. Many past presidents, as well as policy wonks and other pundits, have each advocated for some sort of term of public service for all Americans, whether volunteer or mandatory (gasp!), as a way to create a common cultural experience. As someone who has voluntarily given up almost two years of my adult life in just such pursuit, I can wholeheartedly speak to the cultural learning curve involved and the cultural understanding gained since, in many instances, volunteers serve in communities removed from where they grew up or lived at time of enrollment. It is a difficult financial challenge (especially for someone of modest means), but the rewards are many. 

Of course, I came to MLK, Jr. initially through his writings and speeches. No student of literature and liberal arts can escape reading the "I Have a Dream" speech. During my instructor stint in the classroom, I taught the speech both from the page as well as the screen. (NB: For an absolutely amazing treatment of the speech, check out Ho Che Anderson's graphic rendition, written about rather extensively here, which includes some of the comic graphics). King's Letter From Birmingham Jail is a primer on non-violent protest (as well as a slice of political history). I can hear King's voice and cadence when I read many of his writings; he was that powerful an orator. 

I cannot help but be inspired by MLK, Jr.'s ultimate message of hope. 


  1. Yes, mandatory service! And I might add mandatory international travel. My experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer has been one of the most important in my life.
    I will say though that the US has more of a culture of philanthropy and volunteerism than any other country I have lived in. That is something to be proud of.

    1. Agreed on both counts, Michelle. My travels abroad (while somewhat limited) still greatly inform my understanding of my own country (and of course travel is just fun!). Intriguing on your take regarding U.S. philanthropy. I will keep it in mind.