This past week our nation celebrated the memory and lasting legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. It seems fitting that this year, while we remembered Dr. King's work, we also celebrated the second inauguration of our country's first African-American President. For President Obama, his family and the country, it felt as though Dr. King's dream had finally come true. However, for many people, no matter what their racial background is, the dream is far from realized.
Although Dr. King was a civil rights leader and spoke out for the plight of African-Americans in the U.S., he also fought for the idea of equality for everyone – including economic equality.
Here's one of my favorite quotes:
“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered." - Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
Today in America, although racial equality has made great strides, we still have a problem with economic equality. Last year's Occupy protests started on Wall Street and caught on until their was an Occupy protest in almost every major American city. Although our economy is doing a little better this year than it was last year, equality is still a long way away.
When it comes to jobs and pay in today's economy, we still have a lot of work to do. Last year, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs, a company that has been under fire for allegations of fraud, received $21 million in total compensation for the year. Although CEOs and high-level executives have a stressful job and a huge role in making a company successful, their pay is growing at an increasingly alarming rate.
Between 1978 and 2011, the average compensation for rank-and-file employees, when adjusted for inflation, has grown 5.7 percent while the average CEO compensation has grown 723 percent. To put that into perspective, in 1968, a CEO earned an average of 20 times the compensation of a typical employee. In 2011, they earned over 200 times what an employee makes.
These days, student loan debt in our country is higher than credit card debt, and auto loan debt. In spite of this, students that graduated last year are finding it extremely difficult to find good jobs that pay them enough to comfortably pay off their loans.
With the tough economy, more and more families are finding themselves making less money than ever. According to last year's census, nearly one in six Americans are living in poverty and one in five children live in poverty.
This year, as we all remember Dr. King and his message of equality, I think it's important to realize that while great strides have been made to achieve racial and economic equality for all, there is still much work to be done.
This year, let's all have a dream. Let's dream of a nation where all of our families have homes to live in and enough food to eat. Let's dream of a world where people can work hard at jobs that earn them enough money to support their families. As a nation, we are only as strong as the weakest among us. Let's celebrate the idea that we can all follow our dreams and be prosperous.
What did you do to celebrate Dr. King's message?
Image Source: Biography