Good afternoon, I’m Lew Frederick, State Representative from House District 43, North and Northeast Portland.
I think this holiday is one that many people think they understand very well, after all, it is of relatively recent origin. And Dr. King is a hero of my lifetime, not of the deep past. I grew up with him as the father of my playmates. But the holiday is also poorly understood, because the history of Dr. King’s legacy and that of the Civil Rights movement have been stripped of much of their nuance, sophistication and complication over the years.
Dr. King’s final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? is not referenced very often when folks are finding meaningful quotes for our annual speeches. In it, we see how his ministry had expanded, how his leadership on civil rights, or let’s say “human” rights, though grounded in the racial struggles of the time, was clear in its purpose of addressing oppression in its many manifestations. He made a compelling argument, in 1967, for a guaranteed income. He wrote:
The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.