Dear Service Year Alliance Community,
As President of Service Year Alliance I'm reaching out on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death with a personal message about how Dr. King inspired my own life of service.
While I am not old enough to remember Dr. King’s assassination, my mother and grandmother were diligent in reminding me of his legacy. More importantly, they reminded me of my responsibility to build on his legacy of service for the greater good. Some of their reminders were based on my mother’s experiences as a student at Spelman College in the late 1960s. While my grandmother’s message was deeply rooted in her first-hand experiences with Jim Crow and its associated tenets, she consistently hammered home a message of hope.
As a child growing up in Detroit during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, and with a father who was incarcerated the majority of my life, it took some time for me to truly understand the messages my mother and grandmother were passing to me regarding service. I was trapped with one foot in school and the other foot on the block hanging out with my friends. But the light bulb came on as a result of a service opportunity during my senior year of high school.
I quickly found my passion. A passion for teaching. A passion for education. A passion for service. A passion deeply rooted in the social justice movement that Dr. King led and young people are continuing to pursue today.
It’s this same passion for service that I want us all to bring to our mission to make a service year a common expectation and opportunity for all young Americans. Heed Dr. King’s call from one his most important sermons — Drum Major Instinct. In this sermon Dr. King calls us to remember at the time of his death not where he went to college or the Nobel Peace Prize he won. Dr. King says to remember him as a “drum major for justice”. A “drum major for justice” who served others. A “drum major for justice” who loved and served all humanity.
Please join Service Year Alliance on this day as we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years after his assassination, by committing to serve with humility, heart, and an open mind.
Dr. Robert Simmons, President, Service Year Alliance