By BARRY RAND
“Take the first step in faith,” Martin Luther King Jr. told us. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Inspired by his eloquence and his moral courage, ordinary Americans took the first step in faith, and then more and more steps up the staircase to justice and opportunity.
As our nation marks the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28 by dedicating a memorial to Dr. King on the National Mall, we at AARP understand that the journey to fulfill the promise of our country is far from over. We can see the whole staircase, but we haven’t gotten to the top yet.
As a proud donor to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, we recall Dr. King’s soul-stirring call to see, affirm, and uphold the worth and dignity of every person. If you go to aarp.org/blackcommunity, you can see a video that shows the effects of his legacy, as well as read the reflections of a diverse group of Americans about what Dr. King meant to them.
That is a message we take to heart every day at AARP, as we apply the lessons from Dr. King’s words — and his life. He taught that the path to justice requires not only overcoming prejudice but also overcoming poverty. Especially in the last stages of a life cut tragically short, he led a farsighted struggle for economic opportunity.
Like his earlier leadership against legally-enshrined discrimination, this was terribly difficult work, but Dr. King always put conscience over convenience. Today, at a time of high unemployment and widespread economic pain in our country, his example can once more light the way for us. Let’s not forget the event 48 years ago was called a march for jobs and freedom.
The current economic downturn in America has hit the African-American community with special fury. More than one-third of African-American households had zero or negative net worth in 2009. The median wealth of African-American households was only one-twentieth that of White households. That is the largest disparity since the government started publishing this data a quarter century ago, as reported by Pew Research Center last month.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has found that for two in five households of retired