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What would MLK say to President Obama?

John Lewis | 8/30/2011, 11:40 p.m.

Dr. King would tell this young president to do what he can to end discrimination based on race, color, religious faith and sexual orientation. He would say that righteous work makes its own way. There is no need to put a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. There is no need to match each step to the latest opinion poll. The people of this country recognize when a leader is trying to do what is right. Take a stand, he would say. Go with your gut. Let the people of this country see that you are fighting for them and they will have your back.

There will be opposition, and it might become ugly. Dr. King faced frequent threats on his life and the bombing of his home, and he and his family were in constant danger. He had no protection beyond his faith. But he believed in the power of the truth to expose what is wrong in America. He often quoted the notion that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

And the reason it does is because of the central goodness of humankind. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that once people heard the truth, their tendency to bend toward what is right would pave the way for goodness to prevail. And it still can.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1987. His essay originally appeared in The Washington Post.