King's long legacy of peace, justice

King's long legacy of peace, justice

As we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I want to encourage people to take a moment to reflect upon and recognize the contributions and philosophy of Dr. King — a man who peacefully stood for equality — rejecting bigotry and segregation.

Dr. King served as one of my earliest mentors. I first met him when I was a student at Alabama State College in Montgomery in the early 1950s.

Leaving Chicago for Alabama brought many challenges and frustrations due to segregation. African-Americans were not allowed to drink at certain water fountains. We were prohibited from sitting in certain seats on buses and banned from eating at many restaurants.

Following the lead of Dr. King, Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders, I participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott that ultimately led to the desegregation of the public transit system. This peaceful protest taught me the importance of perseverance and working together toward a common goal.

More than 57 years ago, I established the Jesse White Tumbling Team as a way to give back to the community and to help young people in need of support and guidance. I became a teacher and a public servant because of my desire to help others. The influence Dr. King had on my life is immeasurable. I cannot imagine becoming the first African-American to hold the Office of Illinois Secretary of State without Dr. King's influence on me and on society.

JESSE WHITE

Illinois Secretary of State

Chicago