Commentary

Martin Luther King, the renaissance man

Updated: January 19, 2011, 3:40 PM ET
By Nicolas B. Aziz | Special to ESPN.com

Martin Luther King, Jr. King CenterMartin Luther King Jr.'s principles have found their way back into the school that groomed him, Morehouse College.

As we mark the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, it is imperative we internalize the magnitude of his legacy. Without him, the past 40-year history of this country, and this world, would be totally distorted.

It could be argued that the issue of civil rights would not have been rectified as quickly as it was if it had not been for King. It could be argued that the issues of human rights and social justices around the world would not be as progressive as they currently are if it had not been for King. It could also be argued that our country would not have an African-American as its leader just 40 years after his own father would have been denied entry into a number of American eating establishments.

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King's effect on this world is more evident than ever before, and his holiday should be celebrated as such.

His effect on his alma mater, Morehouse College, has been just as immense as his effect on the world. It is nearly impossible to have a discussion about the institution and not bring up King's name at some point. In my opinion, he has even found his way into the college's current principles and practices.

Morehouse president Robert Michael Franklin aims for the college to produce "renaissance men with a social conscience." According to Franklin, these renaissance men must exemplify "the five wells." These "wells" include men being well read, well dressed, well traveled, well spoken and well balanced. Undoubtedly, King exemplified all these requisites.

It is quite evident that King was an avid reader. It is documented that he immersed himself in many works related to Marxism during his educational years. These novels include Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto" and "Das Kapital," along with left-wing Protestant theologian Walter Rauschenbusch's "Christianity and the Social Crisis." Rauschenbusch's novel showed a large Marxist influence and thus peaked King's literary interest during his college and post-graduate years.

King's dress and decorum were one of his many hallmarks during the civil rights movement. He was seldom seen or pictured sporting attire other than a suit. He was aware of the importance of being professionally dressed at all times.

King's travels to India in 1959 further assured him of the method of civil disobedience, a method that would help end the the racial issues in America. He is quoted as saying that he left India more convinced than ever that nonviolent resistance was the most potent weapon to aid oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.

King's ability to speak is probably his most favorable attribute. His speeches forever etched his place into history. In addition to being his most popular attribute, it was also his most valuable. His knack for speaking allowed him to accurately verbalize the importance of equal rights.

King was able to lead a national movement while successfully fulfilling his other responsibilities. He was a dedicated husband, father and pastor. His ability to balance all these functions made him an even more wholly effective leader.

As Morehouse moves toward its 144th year of producing African-American male leaders, it is no surprise that the institution is leaning upon its most esteemed alumnus in the creation of a new model for its graduates. The blending of King's qualities with those of more modern figures creates what Franklin hopes to be a modern day renaissance man. On this holiday, I hope our students truly understand the role that King's legacy plays in the future development of our institution and its future leaders, and that the world realizes how much of a positive influence he has had on its history.


Nicolas B. Aziz is the editor-in-chief of the Maroon Tiger at Morehouse College, representing the Class of 2012.