Government offices, schools and many businesses are closed today off in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While this is an honorable gesture to pay tribute to a trailblazer of the civil rights movement, I want to encourage everyone to take a moment to reflect on the immeasurable contributions and philosophy of Dr. King -- a great man and visionary who stood for equality, rejected discrimination and segregation, and who did so in a nonviolent fashion.
I first met the Rev. King when I was a student at Alabama State College, now Alabama State University, in Montgomery in the early 1950s. My move from Chicago to Montgomery brought challenges and frustrations due to the racial climate in the South. During my time there, I attended a small church where King served as pastor. Dr. King demonstrated to me how one man with a dream could affect society and improve the quality of life for untold millions.
I established the Jesse White Tumblers 54 years ago as a way to give back to the community and help those in need of guidance. I became a teacher and a public servant in large part to help others. The influence of Dr. King on my life cannot be overstated.
I espouse several philosophies in life that emulate Dr. King. Never discriminate or dislike someone because of race, creed or color. Do something good for someone every day. And when you become successful in life, give back to those less fortunate. On this day, I urge everyone to reflect on the impact that Dr. King has had on their lives, and how each of us can strive to better promote fairness, compassion and nonviolence toward others.
Illinois Secretary of State