Happy birthday to Martin Luther King Jr., who would be 80 years old on January 15th. See his photos, biography and legacy.

His most memorable speech (video and full text below) is the famous “I Have a Dream’ speech delivered in Washington DC in 1963. He lived four more years before the Memphis tragedy is which he was gunned down by James Earl Ray on a hotel balcony at the age of only 39 years old.

His tangible accomplishments are endless including a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. MLK led the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in 1955 which is credited with launching the Civil Rights Movement in the last century which culminated in eventual passage of the Civil Right Act. And he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

But Martin Luther King, Jr’s legacy goes much deeper. He alone is the only national black leader until today who served as a source of inspiration and hope for African-Americans. He did more to bridge race relations that any voice in history, and it came at a time when Americans were ready for it.

Contrast MLK’s non-toxic, effective style with the rhetoric of national black leaders since his time, from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton. In contrast, they have done much damage to the nation by radicalizing the cities and poisoning the dialog.

In the black community, Barack Obama is in a sense the “next Martin Luther King” in that he inspires people to succeed. However, Obama’s appeal to racial victimization during the campaign did not encourage other races in quite the same way as MLK. He has thus far failed to encourage personal responsibility. There is still time, so we can all hope Obama seizes the mantle by working on race relations more passionately. It is not enough to merely be an example.

January 15th is Martin Luther King’s birthday, The official holiday is Monday, fitting as it comes only one day before the inauguration of the nation’s first black president. MLK had a premonition that he would not see this historic event, but his work more than anyone else is responsible for it.

Martin Luther King
I Have a Dream (Video)

Full text can be found here.