“We still have a long, long way to go before we reach the promised land of freedom.” Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed in his book entitled Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community (1967). At the time Jim Crowe Laws had been dismantled, but people were still holding on to tradition and racist beliefs. In 1965 major civil rights legislation had passed, but that did not mean that people had made all the necessary changes that needed to be made for all to enjoy equal rights. The Watts riots had just happened in 1965 and the Black Panther movement was taking African Americans in a different direction than that of Dr. King. Anti-Vietnam War protests were occurring, and other fights for freedom were arising. Dr. King made this profound statement in an attempt to frame what lie ahead and what still needed to be done in order to gain more freedom. At a young age, we are presented with the abstract notion of freedom. Yet, freedom seems elusive and challenging to obtain. Yet, today, we enjoy freedoms that at one point in history seemed impossible and today they are a reality. Our United States Nation was founded on principles of freedom.
People came to the United States to escape religious persecution and a rigid social class system. Our very own Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Dr. King’s words and actions among those of all other Civil Rights Leaders have made it possible for a Chinese young man like me to enjoy rights and liberties that many before me did not have and died to obtain. And although there is still work to be done in the area of equality, we have come a long way when it comes to obtaining freedom. Today, people of color and women can vote, can join the military and defend our country, and all children representing all ethnic and cultural backgrounds can be in the same classroom and strive to obtain a higher education in pursuit of a professional career. Today, an African American man can be our United States President and open the door of possibility for all minorities to become what their ancestors could only imagine, dream about. We have come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.
Our challenge today is to continue the work of Martin Luther King and all other Civil Rights Leaders as we change the minds and hearts of a divided nation when it comes to equal rights. Gay people are still fighting for the right to marry in some of our U.S. States. We are at the point where we legalize Marijuana in Colorado, but can’t seem to honor gay people’s unalienable right to pursue happiness. But not only are we still making our way to our own “promise land of freedom” in the United States, we are now, challenged with a global fight for equality. As Nelson Mandela once 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.” In our case, our brothers and sisters around the world need us. In Egypt young people are looking for Democracy and economic freedom. In Lybia, they freed themselves from the chains of tyranny and are undergoing a revolution for Democracy. With Facebook, Twitter, and the Social Media, we too can make a difference in the world.