Congressman Eliot L. Engel Statement in honor of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.


Congressman Eliot L. Engel

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is unquestionably one of the preeminent figures in American history. He was not only an activist, but pioneered many of the ideals we hold so dear today – namely, nonviolence and equality. It is his set of values that we follow today as we strive to close the gaps in equality that persist throughout our country.
Our country experienced a regrettable setback in 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court, when considering the case of Shelby County v. Holder, declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Designed to prohibit tactics that would effectively prevent individuals from voting, especially minorities, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was critical in safeguarding Americans’ right to execute their key duty as citizens in a democracy.
These setbacks will not be taken lightly or without a fight. In July, when considering the case Perez vs. Perry concerning discriminatory gerrymandering in Texas, the U.S. Department of Justice evoked Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act to require that Texas receive permission before altering voting procedures. I am confident that this important check will be applied to other states in the future, as more states seek to change their voting rights laws in the wake of Shelby County v. Holder.
This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let us reflect upon Dr. King’s efforts to bring about such safeguards. Through his tireless efforts and devotion, he laid the groundwork for a civil rights movement in America. It is up to us to continue his vital work. Inequality still pervades too many facets of American society: wealth, employment, education, and so on. Dr. King declared, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people…racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.” Dr. King’s reminder is still relevant decades later. I was humbled to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech this past summer. This milestone served as an important reminder that we must not ignore the injustices that our fellow Americans experience. While our country has made great strides since the time of Martin Luther King, Jr., there remains much work to be done.
I will continue to do everything in my power to bring about equality for all Americans. I am proud to have been awarded the following honors for my commitment to civil rights:
  • “A+” for fighting poverty from the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty
  • “A” from the NAACP
  • 100% Civil Rights score from The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
The greatest way we can honor Dr. King’s memory is to follow his tremendous example. On this Martin Luther King Day, we should celebrate our nation’s progress, but also work to ensure that progress perseveres.


Eliot L. Engel

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