This Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
This weekend, I took my 5-month old son down to the new King memorial near the National Mall and we briefly heard his son speaking. We walked around the Tidal Basin and back up to the Lincoln Memorial and looked out over the reflecting pond which on that day was filled with hundreds of thousands of protesters.
I kept thinking, “what would I march for?” What do I care deeply enough about to have my son carry on that legacy? I don’t mean just clicking “Like” on Facebook or holding a sign at a rally, but what would I care so deeply about that I would sacrifice everything for that cause.
There is no right answer to that question. Each of us has to decide what matters and what we will care enough about to make that a change. Even if we fail, we fail at our own task.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna:
It is better to do your own duty badly, than to perfectly to another’s; you are safe from harm when you do what you should be doing. (Mitchell, p.68 3:35)What is that duty? How do I know what that duty is? Arjuna keeps asking this of Krishna and while he gives many answers over the next fifteen chapters, essentially it keeps coming back to this same theme of “doing your own duty.”
So as we celebrate the stand that so many people took for civil rights and the struggle that still continues today, it is worth pausing and asking, what is my duty? What would I march for?