Editors' note: Mr. Rand wrote this reflection prior to the postponement - due to Hurricane Irene - of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication, originally scheduled for Aug. 28, 2011.
"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 August 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 have yet to get to the top.
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's Black Community Page, you will 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.
We take his message to heart every day at AARP and we apply the lessons from Dr. King's words to our lives. He taught the path to justice requires not only overcoming prejudice but also overcoming poverty. In the last stages of a life cut tragically short, Dr. King 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."