I’ve always been glad to share a birthday with Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the great leaders of the civil rights movement, he was shot down before he was forty. At thirty-four years old – the age I’m turning this year – he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial; a speech that has been shared with school children around this time of year for decades; that has been quoted by people far and wide these forty-five years since. The older I get, the more aware I become that people moved mountains by the time they were my age. It’s sometimes hard to fathom, but how lucky we are that they had the courage and tenacity to speak, to act.

Dr. King was not a vegan. One of his sons, however, is, as was his wife in the last decade of her life. It’s easy to theorize that, had Dr. King lived, he would have made the connection that we always hope people will make – as Dexter Scott King put it in an interview with Vegetarian Times eighteen years ago, “If you’re violent to yourself by putting

[harmful] things into your body that violate its spirit, it will be difficult not to perpetuate that [violence] onto someone else.” Put that way, we might see the non-violent resistance that Dr. King is known for would mean an eventual imperative to move toward a non-violent approach to animals as well.

In March 1968, Dr. King gave a speech at Grosse Pointe High School where he said the oft-quoted, “The time is always right to do right.” The lines leading up to this statement are worth noting as well:

“Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so we must always help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.”

Isn’t that what we’re all fighting for, in big and small ways, when it comes to the end of animal oppression – progress and not social stagnation? When you think of changemakers – authors who’ve made you think about this topic in ways you never thought to before, filmmakers who are brave enough to show the horrible situations we put animals in, sanctuary directors who rescue said animals – you can’t help but be thankful for their “tireless efforts,” “persistent work,” and dedication to this movement.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a day of service, an opportunity to provide solutions to problems. What better day to do right than that one? We’re all changemakers, with every meal we eat, every purchase we make, every example we lead with. However far down the road you are, take it one step further. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Take to a busy street corner and leaflet. Answer questions honestly and always remember compassion.

Thank you for doing right, vegans.