In recent years, we have seen divisions emerge in our public debate. Partisan rancor spills from the halls of government to our homes, our classrooms and on our social media. We see demonstrations of hate in small towns and big cities and read profiles of self-proclaimed white nationalists in our newspapers. While this division reveals the many imperfections of America, like Dr. King, I do not believe it defines us.
Ohioans, both black and white, march together against racial and economic injustice. Politicians work together to pursue policies to better the lives of every citizen. Neighbors come to the aid of families out of work or those struggling with opioid addiction. Countless Ohioans live as Dr. King did: with passion and purpose, fueled by a desire to spread hope, compassion and love. Dr. King believed in an America where we all work together to right the wrongs in society and afford equality and opportunity to everyone.
Dr. King believed that our policy discussions should not be about scoring political points or petty arguments. Rather, they should be about doing the most good—putting people back to work, educating our children, treating addiction and ensuring everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare. I am excited to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to roll up our sleeves and get to work on these critical issues here in the new year.
Overcoming our state’s greatest challenges will not be easy, however. Though Martin Luther King was shot and killed 50 years ago, we still fight injustice on many fronts in our society, from race and economic opportunity to mass incarceration and community-police relations. Despite our shortcomings, despite our propensity to fail to live up to Dr. King’s Dream, we know that the potential for good in America is boundless. Dr. King saw this and fought for it. He taught that there is no place for hate when our hearts are filled with love.
Dr. King’s legacy is not simply something for the history books. It endures. With that, let us summon the courage to do what Dr. King did, to love in the face of hate and to rise up to meet the real challenges of our time. It is up to us, the beneficiaries of his efforts, to carry the torch of justice to truly honor the legacy of Dr. King.