Martin Luther King III: 'Hope for a Peaceful World'
Beliefnet interviews the son of the famed civil rights leader on the importance of peace education.Newark Peace Education Summit mean to you?
The Newark Peace Education Summit on the Power of Nonviolence provides a unique opportunity for conference participants to share and learn from some of the finest peace educators in the world. H.G. Wells once said that “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe,” and I think this is especially true for peace education in particular. At this critical juncture, we must mine the accumulated wisdom and insights of top peace educators, so that we can better prepare people of all races, religions and nations to live together in peace. If we want the 21st century to herald a new era of peace for all humanity, then this Summit provides an excellent beginning. Bringing together some of the best thinkers regarding peace education and distilling their ideas for mass education is an excellent way to begin.
Violence is so prevalent in our urban cities. What do you feel is the biggest obstacle to peace and how do we overcome it?
In a word, “Jobs.” In my view, nothing would do more to reduce violence in American cities than genuine full employment – a job at a decent wage for every person who wants to work. Numerous studies have shown that violence increases with unemployment. People who see no hope for earning a decent living too often turn to crime or drug abuse, which creates a chain reaction of hopelessness, despair and frustration – in other words the perfect environment for violence to increase.
The best way to overcome joblessness is to create a social contract between the public and private sectors to provide decent jobs for the unemployed. The decaying infrastructure of our cities is in urgent need of repair and restoration. We can put millions of people to work rebuilding our transportation systems, our subways, bridges and highways, our ports, our parks and recreational facilities. Jobs for all who want to work is the essential prerequisite for creating a nonviolent society. Peace education is important. But you can’t have real peace when unemployment rates are in double digits in America’s cities.
How do you feel this current generation views Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy? Do you find that they connect with his stance on unity and peace?
It’s clear to me that millions of young people understand and value my father’s legacy of social change through nonviolence. I’m not saying that there are not many who have not yet gotten his message. We still have an enormous job to do in educating people about my father’s philosophy and methods of nonviolence. But I do believe that every year, more and more young people are becoming aware of the power of nonviolence through their study of my father’s life and leadership. This is what we are about at The King Center – educating young people across America and around the world in leveraging the power of nonviolence as a force for lasting peace with justice.
Martin Luther King, Jr’s great cause was racial civil rights. Do you feel like that dream has been realized or do we still have a ways to go?
My father’s leadership was about more than civil rights. He was deeply concerned with human rights and world peace, and he said so on numerous occasions. He was a civil rights leader, true. But he was increasingly focused on human rights and a global concern and peace as an imperative. He understood that war drains valuable resources and makes it impossible for a nation to create economic opportunity for all citizens.
His dream has not yet been realized. The election of an African American president was a very significant step forward toward fulfilling the dream. But African Americans are still less than 3 percent of all elected officials in the U.S., even though we are over 13 percent of the population of the U.S. People of color are still underrepresented in the executive suites as well. We have made progress in terms of racial justice in many areas. But we have a long way to go before we can truthfully say that the dream of equal opportunity for all has been achieved.