As we enter 2018, Americans should take note of the anniversaries of two significant events for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — the 55th year since the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington with his “I Have a Dream” speech, and the 50th year since his assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis Tennessee.

Delivered two months before his tragic death, Dr. King’s sermon “The Drum Major Instinct” was a personal reflection on what really matters in a lifetime, especially in cultures that value celebrity and material gain.

From the pulpit in Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. King shared these words:

“Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator — that something that we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?” And I leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize — that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards — that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say.”

This year, our Carlisle community continues America’s quest to embrace Dr. King’s commitment to service to others and we celebrate its 29th year commemoration of his birthday. We will gather Jan. 14 for a short march in downtown Carlisle to the Old Courthouse for a civic program followed by an ecumenical service at First Lutheran Church.

Over the course of the past month you have seen notices of the Jan. 14 event with the theme, “Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Day of Service: “Looking Forward, We Stand United.”

Carlisle community members and organizations will have the opportunity to gather and demonstrate support for those ideals, which are rooted in American values. Our commemoration committee invites you to be part of this celebration within our community.

You can track the work of your community-based committee on Facebook by following: www.facebook.com/CarlisleMartinLutherKingCommemoration/

Col. Charles D. Allen, U.S. Army, Ret., is professor of leadership and cultural studies at the U.S. Army War College.

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