Radio Column

Asa Arkansas's Governor

Learning from History


Column Transcript

In July 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sat in a small jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama and penned a collection of his most powerful sermons, which were later compiled in a book called Strength to Love. In that book of sermons, Dr. King wrote these compelling words: “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”

The defining points of our past inform our decisions in the present, and it is important that we emphasize the lessons we can learn from history today.

I am pleased that Senate Bill 519 has been filed to emphasize the historic importance of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the classroom. Under this act, our state will enact a statewide policy of teaching our children about the lessons in leadership from the Civil War for the first time. In addition, this bill will coordinate classroom instruction about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders.

At its core, this bill is about teaching history, but that’s not all. This legislation also separates the holidays honoring General Robert E. Lee and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – giving a distinct day to honor Dr. King and a day of remembrance for Robert E. Lee.

As governor, I’m pleased to announce my support and endorsement of this important legislation. This week, I have asked the General Assembly to support this proposal as it goes through the legislative process, and I will work to see that it is fairly presented.

The separation of these holidays is important for all Arkansans to fully recognize the contributions of Dr. King. It is my sincere hope that we are united in celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King – his courage, his conviction and his lasting influence on our nation.

This legislation not only gives us an opportunity to emphasize important lessons learned from our past; it gives us the opportunity to show respect to each other in the present. Whenever we feel divided – over race, religion or politics – may we remember this as a mark of mutual respect and unity for our state and nation.

From the capitol to the classroom, we are making decisions and creating ideas that are shaping history. It is my firm conviction that these measures are the right direction for our state. And I hope to see history shaped yet again, by the members Arkansas General Assembly and the people of Arkansas.