Martin Luther King Jr. epitomizes my idea of an underdog. He wasn’t willing to accept the external status he was born with or the idea that some men are more important than others because of the pigment of their skin. He had faith in the idea of changing a culture through nonviolence. When other leaders promoted violence, he stood firm on the ideal of peaceful protests. King believed that Americans would see what was right and reject racial injustice. Even his assassination could not kill the ideas he lived for. His words and actions were burned into our conscience in a way that could not be forgotten, and respect for his vision and his ideals live on. He was born to a class with fewer freedoms and fewer rights than other Americans, but he chose to challenge the structure of the times and saw the way to freedom was through non-violence. Within ourselves, often invisible to others, we know the fear that holds us back, that cripples us. But Dr. King overcame his fears.
Most of the time the underdog does not win the battle, but if they stay true to their principles they can change the world by changing the way we think and how we look at others. Like Dr. King, we are given endless imagination and then a life where we decide our own path to accomplish our dreams. We know what we believe, and we know how far we are willing to go. We know when we can compromise and when we cannot. Our lives represent our convictions.
In a sense, we are all underdogs with obstacles mounting before us, challenging us to live our lives as we see fit without wavering or succumbing to temptations to veer off the path we know is right.
Ironically, it is in victory that the underdog must beware that the position he has won does not become more important than the challenge he worked to overcome. Too often the desire to maintain power makes us lose sight of our goals. There are few like Dr. King who can resist so many temptations that could pull them off course.
We’re going to be told we can’t, we will be told not to try, we will be given reasons and excuses. We’ll be told that the odds are against us but none of them can get in the way of purpose and conviction and belief. When we feel passionately enough all those voices will be drowned out by our voice from within that tells us we can succeed. Over the coarse of our life, the principles we surrendered too easily will likely haunt us, when we remember the times we settled for almost or decided that our struggle was too hard, while we wonder what could have been accomplished if we’d had the persistence and ability to overcome the difficult times. It’s in the principles we refused to abandon that we will feel the most pride. We must believe that what we strive for is within reach.
Like Winston Churchill said in his 1941 speech to the children of Harrow School nearing the height of World War II. “Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”