Living the Legacy

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a college student in the 1960s, I was one of those protesting the Vietnam War and working in neighborhood action groups to empower the poor. We found our inspiration and hope for a better world in the words and leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, his words still inspire and give us hope. Social media has given us the power to organize activism in new ways. We have a broader base of the population who are joining the mobilization protesting excessive police violence and excessive incarceration with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Students often feel they have nothing to offer. They are wrong! They are the key to the future. As a nation all generations will have to work together to change our justice system on the national level. Today’s students are the seeds of change, our future leaders. What can we offer to support them?

TALK ABOUT the issues and encourage students to debate all sides of issues. As difficult as it is to follow news reports on unprovoked police violence against black citizens, it is important to look at each incident and challenge students to understand the legal issues underlying the events. What laws would provide protection from these unjust actions?

HISTORY OF STUDENT PROTEST will provide examples of changes in society brought about by student protests. Most recently the students in Florida’s Parkland High School organized “Enough is Enough,” which became a nationwide protest against school violence/gun violence. Legislators are now addressing those concerns.

WHAT ARE SCHOOLS teaching about political action? Some students will become our leaders. The rest can use their knowledge to support political careers of women and men seeking roles in our justice system, as well as our political representation.

Parents, challenge your students to understand issues and think creatively for solutions. One way is to explore National Civil Rights Museum here in Memphis, which has exhibits that trace the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the 17th century to the present.

Dr. King was one man, one voice, who changed the world. How will we continue the legacy? How will you?

Additional Inspiration:

Ellen Mooney is a retired principal and teacher with more than 45 years of experience in K-12 education.


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