Jorge Cabrera

State Senator

Jorge Cabrera

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working Together to Solve Problems

January 15, 2024

What Would Dr. King Jr. Tell Us in 2024? “Have Faith.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been one of my idols since I was a teenager. So, on the 95th anniversary of his birth, I have to wonder – what would Dr. King make of his beloved country in 2024, with all this talk of an impending ‘national divorce’?

I think he would tell us all to have faith in our friends and neighbors, and in the promise of America. It’s a faith that all of us possess, and now more than ever it is vital that we share this common faith with each other.

Dr. King gave over 2,500 speeches in his lifetime. One of them, his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963, is rightly remembered as one of his finest speeches, and as one of the finest pieces of oratory in American history.

Most of us remember that speech for his repeated use of the word “dream.” Dr. King used it 11 times that day to communicate his desire for an America living out the national creed of equality enshrined in of our Declaration of Independence.

But Dr. King used another word six times in that speech as well: “faith.”

“This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day,” he said.

I’ve been thinking about this since last year when, during an online MLK Jr. celebration, I addressed the state of affairs in America, saying, “We seem to be at each other’s throats; our country seems so polarizing and we seem to be losing our democracy. This is a time in America where we are being tested. And I wonder what Dr. King would say.”

Many of my observations are still true today. But once you see and identify an injustice, you must muster the courage to confront it, with a faith in humanity that it will be addressed.

Dr. King had faith his entire life. I like to think that Connecticut played some part in his positive outlook on the future; after all, he saw what a just society could look like when he worked on a tobacco farm in Simsbury the summer before he started at Morehouse College.”The white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit anywhere we want to,” King remarked about Connecticut.

But – like today – there was political retribution in the air. When Dr. King supported Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott of 1956, he received death threats. A bomb was exploded outside his home. About a dozen years later, on a hotel balcony in Memphis, after speaking to unionized Black sanitation workers, Dr. King was assassinated as he smiled and joked with friends before dinner.

The hard work and faith that Dr. King embodied survives today in each of us. My dad came to America from Puerto Rico in the 1960s looking for a better life. With no formal education but with an immense work ethic, my dad worked as a foreman at an electrical fittings factory. I was the first person in my family to go to college, and for most of my life I’ve been a union representative, helping working people preserve their dignity on the job. My faith is in the common decency of working people, a value that most of us share.

Now, in this time of growing division, I believe Dr. King would remind us of the role that dreams and faith play in our lives, regardless of political affiliation. Dreams and faith are intertwined, are they not? Our dreams for a brighter future rely upon our faith that – despite occasional obstacles and setbacks – we will ultimately prevail. If we lose that faith, we lose our dreams.

Now is the time for us to celebrate our shared dreams and our faith in each other and in our great country. I believe it would be the greatest honor to the memory of Dr. King if we would live that faith this year, and always.