A Pulitzer Prize winning journalist delivered the keynote address Monday at the state of Iowa’s 19th Annual Martin Luther King, Junior Day Ceremony.
Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts, Junior reminded a couple hundred people, gathered at the Iowa Historical Building in Des Moines, that Dr. King fought for the rights of all humans, not just blacks.
Pitts says he believes most Americans today see King as an "cardboard cutout image rather than an inspiration" – and they only know him for saying "I have a dream." "As if he never said ‘non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obiligation as cooperation with good’…as if he never said ‘the truth crushed to earth will rise again’…as if he never said ‘we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,’" Pitts said to applause.
Pitts said racial inequity still clearly exists in this country, stating "we have come so far, yet we still have so far to go." "Which is why it is imperative to return to the man who got us this far," Pitts explained, "to drop the cardboard cutout, to exchange the image for the inspiration, to understand what he did and how he did it – so that we can take the lesson of his example and use it to change our lives in the here and now."
Pitts invoked words from one of King’s final speeches in his closing remarks. "If you know who Martin Luther King was…who he is, then you know what you need to go out of here and do. Get together…come together and let us beat the drum for a righteous cause," Pitts said to a standing ovation.