Reflecting on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We interview some of our teammates about what Dr. King’s work means to them.

Monday is a state and federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King was murdered over 50 years ago but his legacy of having the courage to speak up and lead others in a fight for racial and economic equality lives on. Multitudes have continued his bold actions and messages, which fueled the civil rights movement of his time and continue to resonate today.

Dr. King also conducted his life in a way that he hoped would inspire others. Many at our agency have and do embody his work and values by example, and we wanted to bring attention to a few of them. Below, you will find interviews with these teammates, and we thank them for taking the time to share their perspectives.

Before you read their interviews, we encourage you to take a few minutes to read or listen to two of Dr. King’s most famous speeches:

We hope that everyone will mark this momentous holiday by taking time to reflect on why we celebrate it and how we all can continue to demonstrate Dr. King’s ideals in our own lives.

"Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force." Dr. King, "I Have a Dream"

Kim McKandes, group life coordinator, Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility

Headshot of a Black man wearing a black shirt with white trim, and a necklace with a Christian cross

Q: What does this quote mean to you?

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with our youth to let them know the way we handle things is not through destroying our communities, and it’s not through going out and fighting with someone regarding their beliefs. It’s all about having a discussion and remembering we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk.

“Restorative justice focuses on sharing your feelings as to how you were harmed, versus pointing the finger and basically telling a person ‘you did this.’ It gives you the opportunity to share what you feel and believe, but you’re also able to listen to the other’s viewpoint.”

Q: How do you think Dr. King embodied the ideas behind this quote?

“Dr. King literally put his body on the line. I am enamored by the fact that someone can literally walk up to another person, spit in their face, call them names other than the name their mother gave them at birth, and the other person can still sit there and not react.”

Q: How do you try to embody these ideas in your own actions?

McKandes relayed a story of a time when, in the 1990s, he accidentally stumbled across a KKK cross-burning in Texas.

“As I was driving away, I thought, ‘I wonder if anyone has ever shared with them the love and generosity that Martin Luther King spoke of.’ It forced me to address the anger within me. … From that day forward, I promised myself that before I get upset at anything, I’m going to take a moment first to listen, and then I’m going to share some love or generosity or empathy with that person, so that I can understand their view before I lash out.”

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Dr. King, "I Have a Dream"

Bubba Williams, camp director, Camp Riverbend

Headshot of a Black man wearing a black Nike jacket and a gray t-shirt underneath

Q: What does this quote mean to you?

“That quote is letting everybody know, ‘close your eyes and judge me by the character of who I am, don’t just judge me by my skin color.’ For years and years, corporate America and people all around just judged people by their color. If you were African American, they considered you lower than everybody else. Dr. King was hoping and praying that when his kids grew up, America will have changed.”

Q: How do you think Dr. King embodied the ideas behind this quote?

“If you ever see his marches or his speeches, he always walked with his head up. He showed people that, ‘You’re going to judge me by my character, and my character is not to stoop to your level and put violence back on you just because you put it on me.’”

Q: How do you try to embody these ideas in your own actions?

“Growing up in inner-city L.A., I had to turn away from a lot of fights. Fourth grade was when Dr. King started being important in my life. I was like, ‘Hey, if he can deal with what he dealt with and never fight back, then what I’m dealing with, I can just walk away from it and not think twice.’ It takes character and being a strong person to walk away.

“I’ve been working at the same agency and the same facility for 27 years, starting at the bottom as a temp. When I became camp director, I wanted people here to know that I’m still Bubba. I’m not changing who I am just because I’m in a position of authority.”

"With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood." Dr. King, "I Have a Dream"

Diana Pedregon, juvenile parole/probation officer, Coos County

Q: What does this quote mean to you?

“It reminds me a lot about how we are right now, with trying to make things equitable for everyone. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work is not just about Black people, it’s about all of us — indigenous, immigrants, all of us. Throughout history, others wanted us to assimilate, but I feel like it should be more like a symphony or a mosaic where we can all be ourselves but yet be together and work together.”

Q: How do you think Dr. King embodied the ideas behind this quote?

“He was so focused on working together, standing together, struggling together, being in jail together. There was definitely a lot of suffering going on [during the civil rights movement], and they did it together.”

Q: How do you try to embody these ideas in your own actions?

“I try to do what’s right whether it’s comfortable or not. It’s important to stand up for what’s right, even though it might not be easy. I try to be sure that I am not silent when I witness any form of oppression.”

"I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Dr. King, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

Renee Hernandez, juvenile parole/probation officer, Marion County

Headshot of a Latina woman standing outside, wearing black, red, and green flower shirt

Q: What does this quote mean to you?

“He is saying that he’s not going to sit and let things just happen. He wants to make changes. It doesn’t matter where it’s at or who it is, the change needs to happen, he’s going to do something about it wherever he’s at.”

Q: How do you think Dr. King embodied the ideas behind this quote?

“He put his words into action. He followed through with what he said he was going to do. He made changes through the movements he was part of, and his words of wisdom were an inspiration to many.”

Q: How do you try to embody these ideas in your own actions?

“Holding our youth accountable is really important to me. But at the same time, I understand that the youth are human beings and there’s room for change to happen. The mistakes that they made do not define who they really are.

“I try to advocate for what’s right. I advocate for my kids, and I advocate for myself if I feel like I’m not being treated right. Sometimes it’s hard for me to advocate for something where I feel like I’m going to be shut down. But I’ve come a long way. Before, I felt like I didn’t have a backbone. Now I know that my backbone is my morals and values.”

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