Cadet reflects on King legacy

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, where he expressed hope that one day he would see "little black boys and black girls ... able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

Raised in a generation where blatant racism and hatred no longer exists, it is hard for some of us to imagine a world split by color. There are times in my life where I can remember the wandering eyes of strangers who didn't understand my mixed race or looked at my parents a little differently as I sat in between them. Those strangers were likely exceptions to the fact that most of society has moved well past judging people by the color of their skin.

King's life was dedicated to human rights, inclusion and complete equality. He envisioned a world where we would be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin. He gave generations of African-Americans excitement, enthusiasm and determination to join together in a struggle for freedom and justice. King understood that freedom was man's greatest gift and believed that every man and women should be worthy of this gift to live a life that our founder's once envisioned, a life filled with happiness.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives us a chance to pause, to reflect on his words and see how our modern world presents itself with new challenges that redefine his dream. Stitched together from the 50 states and numerous countries, the Air Force Academy now reflects this modern world. You see, we are all different in some way. Each of us is unique in the ways we each see the world and how we came to be here in Colorado Springs.

At times society deems different as bad which breeds hatred, injustice, greed, and discrimination. In King's words: "Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true."

Perhaps the details of today's struggles are different and the tools to conquer the challenges have evolved, but the portrayal of his dream and call to action are just as real and no less urgent. No matter how tough things got as he addressed the prejudice and injustice seen in the face of a white supremacist, King always had faith that people everywhere would one day love and treat one another as equals.

So as we pause and look back at King's impact on our lives, look forward as well. Find new ways to keep his legacy alive. The differences within ourselves, the uniqueness in ourselves that we try and hide, are what make us special. The differences in how we speak, act, look and learn create change and continue King's dream. His dream is possible if we are not afraid to address the hate, prejudice and injustice that are very much still alive.

As you spot the differences in one another and in yourself, remember the success of Dr. King and his fight for freedom. Civil rights is never an end state but a continuous process. We should all continue to seek out injustice in society and learn to accept the differences in one another. Stay strong to your convictions and beliefs, and remember that we represent the hope of a movement and spirit that should never falter. Treat each other with respect, dignity and value. We may not be able to stop all the evil in the world, but how we treat one another is entirely up to us.