I like Martin Luther King Jr. The man of God was a pioneer and revolutionary voice in a time when this country could have turned far more violent.
One of the contributions I value is his notion of the Cycle of Violence.
Over-simplified, The Cycle of Violence is when an aggressor comes on the scene and humiliates another, the humiliated responds violently to stand up for themselves, fight for what's right and defend their dignity and humanity. That violence is reciprocated by the aggressor and violent conflict is the norm. In violent conflict, there is always a loser and a winner. The winner will then humiliate the loser and the cycle will eventually reproduce. Whenever we enter into the power game, there are losers and winners.
MLK, drawing from the message, teaching and life of Jesus, said that one must engage in breaking the cycle of violence. In other words, if someone seeks to humiliate you, you do not respond violently, but you take a nonviolent stand against the oppressor and when they strike you, you get back up and you stand until they strike you again and again and again. Eventually you will either die, or you will provoke the aggressor to begin questioning why they are striking you, or even better, to recognize your humanity. It is this painful and treacherous road that leads to the end of the cycle of violence. It is in struggle that great and lasting change is achieved. This is how change was initiated in the south in the 60's and how change was initiated in India with Gandhi and how change was initiated in South Africa with Apartheid.
Thanks Dr. King for being a modern reminder of the true ethic of Jesus, that no one has power over me if I refuse to enter the power game they are playing. Thanks for reminding us that this way is the better way, but it is the harder way as well. (Jesus, King, and Gandhi all died violent deaths.)
p.s. on a lesser note, thanks for having a day named after you that gets me a day off of classes too!