Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is always an appropriate time to recommit ourselves to social justice.  But this year, given the larger context of national events, the themes of the holiday seem especially relevant and urgent.  At several observances in New Rochelle over the weekend, I offered variations of the following comments:

It is no secret that in a few short days, we will enter a new era — an era that raises very basic questions about who we are as people.

Others, whose experience is longer and broader than mine, may have had occasion to pose these questions before, but for me, for the first time in my life, I find myself asking: do we really mean the patriotic things we say about pluralism, and equal justice under law, and the goodness and exceptionalism of America? Or are these only empty words.

What kind of country do we live in? I’ll be honest. At this moment, I’m not sure of the answer. But I can tell you, with absolute certainty and conviction, what kind of community we live in. So in case there is any doubt or fear, let it be known that:

This is a place where all of us are valued, respected, and welcomed – whoever we are or wherever we come from.

This is a place where we know our own lives are bound up in the lives of our neighbors – that we go up or down together.

This is a place where we don’t celebrate bullies, we stand up to them.

And this is a place where we would never denigrate a civil rights icon, who has been literally beaten bloody in service to justice, by calling him all talk and no action.

We are better than that.  These principles are alive and well in New Rochelle, NY. And no matter the challenge, we will never retreat from them.

Sometimes love doesn’t carry the day. But Dr. King, even in his darkest hour, never stopped believing, with all his heart and mind, that love would always win out in the end.

And if we are to honor his legacy, we must believe so, too.

So, in that spirit, I say: God bless you. God bless our wonderful community of New Rochelle. And God bless the United States of America.