Good morning!

It is truly an honor to be invited again to be a part of the celebration of Dr. King’s 90th birthday.

As I said last time – and it is worth repeating – to be able to stand with and before you, in this historic church, to publicly honor this great man and this native son of Georgia is truly a humbling experience.

As I was reflecting on today and what I might say, I kept thinking about the many images of Dr. King I’ve seen over the years – pictures and video clips.


The artwork put up at the corner of Boulevard and Freedom Parkway during the mid-90s.

The statue at the Capitol that was commemorated in 2017.

These images – and so many others around our city, this state, our nation and even around the world – testify to one fact - Dr. King is a hero.

I wasn’t around in the 1960’s, but I am a history buff and it goes without saying that during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, Dr. King was a hero to millions.

Since then, he has also become a hero to my generation and all generations.

And I suspect, since you are here today, he is a hero to you as well.

The world needs heroes. The world needs people like Dr. King.

But what does that mean? What is a hero and why is Dr. King one?

Being a movie buff and having read a comic book or two in my day, I am well aware that there are plenty of “superheroes” out there. We all know them. And because we are fortunate to live in Atlanta, Georgia, we are now at the center of the superhero universe. Thanks to our incredible film industry, most of the Marvel characters are now Georgia residents!

Black Panther.

Captain America.

And Captain Marvel will arrive on the scene this March.

But I’m not talking about those kinds of superheroes. Because as much as we enjoy them on the big or little screen, or in a comic book, they simply are not real.

Dr. King was real.

Dr. King was a real hero.

Meriam-Webster defines a hero as “a person admired for achievements and noble qualities,” “one who shows great courage,” “the central figure in an event, period, or movement,” and “an object of extreme admiration and devotion.”

Dr. King exemplified all of these.

His achievements – secured with the help of so many – are immeasurable.

His courage – unquestioned.

He was the central figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

The admiration and devotion shown to him – as evidenced by this celebration and others like it around the country today – deep, genuine, and real. Truly fitting of an American patriot. An American hero.

But what caught my eye and what I will end with today was this - those definitions by Meriam-Webster that referenced “noble qualities.” And of the many noble qualities it seems that Dr. King possessed, civility and humility quickly come to mind.

When I think back on the video and audio clips of Dr. King, he may have been passionate, but he was always civil. He may have been upset, but he was always civil. He may have disagreed with you, but he was always civil.

And he was always humble. It was never about “I,” it was always about “we.”

On February 4, 1968, from the pulpit of this very congregation, Dr. King preached about what might happen if he died. What he would have wanted said. And this is what he told his congregation:

Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn’t important.

Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that’s not important.

Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question.

I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked.

I want you to say, on that day, that I did try in my life, to visit those who were in prison.

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Happy 90th Birthday, Dr. King! And thank you for showing us what it truly means to be a hero.