State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) delivered his annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech before the Indiana House of Representatives the Thursday before the holiday.
It was the 27th year that Dr. Smith spoke of the legacy of the “Drum Major for Justice,” Dr. King, and the meaning of the holiday honoring him.
Dr. Smith began by speaking of the trials and tribulations of the biblical Job emphasizing the theme, “After a season of suffering comes the season of elevation.” Dr. Smith then spoke of the agony of Jesus Christ in the garden, the painful scourging, the soldiers’ mocking of Him with the crowning of thorns, the heavy weight of carrying of the cross, and the incredibly painful crucifixion. Dr. Smith again returned to the theme explaining how “After a season of suffering came a season of elevation.” Jesus took His seat at the right hand of the Father.
Then Dr. Smith spoke of another man who faced bigotry, racism and injustice because this gentle and courageous man sought peace and justice. The man of whom he spoke was The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Because he talked of peace overcoming violence and love overcoming hatred, those who sought change through violence spoke against him. Yet, Dr. Smith said Rev. King refused to acquiesce and reiterated that unarmed truth and unconditional love would prevail, not unlike Jesus’ message 2,000 years earlier. Dr. King’s unwavering commitment to non-violent change would positively alter the destiny of history.
Dr. Smith said The Rev. King’s dream of when people “will be not judged by the color of their skin, but rather the content of their character” remained a clear vision that the pastor of peace shared with millions of men and women of all races and creeds.
Like Job and Jesus, Dr. King endured great trials, tribulations and even violence. He once was stab-bed in the chest with a letter opener that went so deep as to touch his aorta. The King family home was bombed by segregationists. In addition, Dr. King was jailed unjustly numerous times for bold actions of peaceful protest on behalf of civil rights. Dr. King’s followers also suffered violence at the hands of police throughout the country.
City police used high-powered water hoses and vicious dogs to attack African American men, wo-men and children protesting in Birmingham, Alabama. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge on U.S. Route 80, just on the edge of Selma, Alabama, state police and a county posse teargassed, then severely beat unarmed marchers with billy clubs.
Additionally, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director J. Ed-gar Hoover targeted Dr. King. Hoover even said he feared the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. could become a “messiah” for Black nationalists. The FBI spread rumors, innuendos, half-truths, and lies ab-out Dr. King, trying to discredit him. Then on April 4, a cowardly assassin killed Dr. King after those who hated the peacemaker said, “Kill the dreamer and you kill the dream.” However, Dr. Smith said Dr. King’s dream lives on and becomes a clearer reality with the passage of time.
Dr. Smith wove into his speech the parallels between the lives of Jesus Christ and this humble, mortal servant of justice and peace, Dr. King. Both suffered greatly and were shown enormous disrespect “because no prophet is accepted in his homeland.” However, Dr. Smith reiterated that Job, Jesus Christ and Dr. King each found that “After a season of suffering comes the season of elevation.”
As he finished his speech, Dr. Smith said Dr. King is “the stone rejected, which has become the chief cornerstone of this nation.” The House members in the chamber responded to the speech with a long and appreciative applause.