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Lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day comes at a time when our country requires the same courage of heart and fortitude of spirit as it did in 1963. As Dr. King once said, we must choose to be maladjusted to racial discrimination, religious bigotry, and economic oppression.

We have historically celebrated this day as one of service; perhaps, at this time we should also look to how we live in sacrifice to a greater social need for our day. Rather than just one day of community service, we must consider how we, like Dr. King, can live to eradicate injustice.

First, we must choose to speak. As Dr. King said, we must recognize that "there comes a time when silence is betrayal." What is the burning need that you see? For some, it is unjust incarceration, or racial equality, or religious freedom. For others, the plight of homelessness, or access to justice across the world, or the existence of human trafficking are the burning questions. Whatever it may be, remember that your voice is necessary and your silence is no longer an option.

Next, we must choose to believe that in love we shall overcome. Many are tired—the fight for justice surely takes a toll. Many are discouraged—how can we come together as a society when unity feels so far away. Many are despairing—will there ever be a time when we are truly all judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin? Will we ever be a society where each person, regardless of race, nationality, or economic status, will receive equal and equitable treatment? These are the same questions that confronted Dr. King, and like him we must choose to respond with hope and faith. We know that as light shines, darkness must retreat. Continue to believe in the power of light and love.

Finally, we must choose to act. There are many examples of Caruso Law students, faculty, and alumni who are taking action on issues of importance to our society. Be it through the Justice Bus, involvement through a clinic, providing pro bono services through the California Bar, or working in areas of practice and mediation to benefit those less fortunate, you can choose to serve others. While you may not dedicate your career to this work, you can dedicate your life to being an agent of justice, love, and light in a world that desperately needs you right now.

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. May the same courage of heart and fortitude of spirit that exemplified his life be found in us all.