Recently I had the opportunity to re-visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington DC. The inscriptions on the wall reminded me of the power of this inspirational man and what I believe in, and strive for in my life: Justice For All.
Justice for all. It is an easy phrase to espouse, but it can be a challenging one to live. As an assistant prosecutor for over 25 years I have worked to make my community a safer place to live; to hold those who violate the law accountable and support victims in their time of need. Ethically, it is my obligation to seek justice; personally it is my passion to be its advocate. I work to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected in the criminal justice system. Yet, it is not enough. Justice for all is much more than what occurs in the criminal justice system, and at times the criminal justice system, it is sad to say, doesn’t provide justice.
Through the centuries, philosophers have discussed and even at times argued on the meaning of “Justice.” From Plato to Thomas Aquinas to John Lock and beyond, we have sought to define this amorphous concept and even though the term is difficult to define; individual after individual seeks it and works toward it.
Dr. King made powerful declarations including:
- “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and
- “We are determined…to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream,” and
- “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
He provided words and actions that changed the world; he inspired a generation to live better lives and stand tall for what each of them believed. He encouraged everyone to stand tall for justice for all.
Dr. King inspired a nation and a world, yet striving for justice does not mean to do it only if it impacts us on a grand scale. Seeking justice for those in our lives, or in our communities is just as important as seeking justice for a nation. Another inspirational leader, Mahatma Gandhi stated, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” That change starts in our homes.
Justice at Home
Each and every one of us can be that change and bring justice to those in our lives and beyond. How? I believe there are four factors we should consider or do when seeking justice for all.
First, recognize that we are all engines of change and what we say and do can make a difference. Very few people have the oratory skills of Dr. King, but every person has the ability to speak up and ensure that each of us is treated fairly. Our words and actions can bring change with whom we interact every day.
Second, it is important to recognize that change takes time and consistent effort. Very little of worth can develop overnight; there is a constant struggle. Individuals have been trying to achieve justice for all throughout the centuries, some giving their lives in the effort, including Dr. King and Gandhi. And even with the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, we still have injustice in the world. But because of those giants of justice and many others, life has improved and we have more opportunities on achieving justice, but there is still a long road to travel.
Third, take the time to learn about the issue(s) you are passionate about. Do you care about how children are treated? Does it matter to you if animals are abused? Does gender or race discrimination infuriate you? Want to make sure that the rule of law is followed? There are any number of issues you can focus on to ensure we are all treated with justice, and learning the basics of an issue you care about can help you focus your time and effort. Remember that it takes time for change thus the knowledge gained and the passion we possess helps us to stay focused through the rough times.
Finally, we must keep in mind that no one is perfect. I have made mistakes, you will make mistakes, and those we are trying to support in achieving justice will make mistakes. We are human, and that is part of the reason that we must always continue to strive for justice. Some of us fall down, and when that happens, it is time to stand back up, help those who are next to us stand up, brush ourselves off and continue the struggle. But there are those who have no interest in justice and instead try to destroy any successes. We must continue the struggle against those individuals, while acknowledging their human weaknesses and shortcomings.
Justice for All Everywhere
Striving for justice at home and in our communities creates a foundation for others to build upon now and in the future. Bringing justice for all provides support for each person and will develop an interlocking network that can grow and build in momentum and success. Seeking justice for all in our lives can bring progress for those in our lives and be transformative for everyone.
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