Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As we celebrate the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, 83rd birthday, let us remember that he not only fought for racial justice and equality, but also called on us to end poverty and eliminate war.

U.S. Census data show that over twenty percent of children in the U.S. live in abject poverty.  Studies show that the number of American children going to bed hungry at night is at its highest. This is occurring in this vast land of plenty, a country blessed with rich agricultural production.

The numbers of Americans and families living in poverty have risen to their highest levels since 1993.

The number of unemployed and laid-off Americans, including the long term unemployed, remains high, with the unemployment rates in California and the San Francisco Bay Area higher than that of the national average.

The U.S.’ military excursion in Iraq and its war in Afghanistan have cost thousands of Americans’ lives, and the lives of tens of thousands of children, women, and men in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tens of billions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars have been spent to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ongoing war expenditures continue to drain our nation’s budget.

In his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Dr. King stated, “the poor in America know that they live in the richest nation in the world, and that even though they are perishing on a lonely island of poverty they are surrounded by a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

“Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed – not only its symptoms but its basic causes. This, too, will be a fierce struggle, but we must not be afraid to pursue the remedy no matter how formidable the task.”

Urging us to affirm peace, Dr. King called on us, “wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete…If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war.”

Let us honor Dr. King in word and in deed.

ANH LE works with underserved communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.