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Your e-mails: MLK's lasting influence readers reflect on the slain leader's legacy



Martin Luther King Jr

(CNN) -- As the nation remembers the Rev. Martin Luther King on the federal holiday in his honor, asked readers how King's legacy had influenced their own lives. Here is a selection of those responses, received by e-mail:

I was two months old when my mother attended the "I Have a Dream" speech, I was way too young to remember it as it happened however, I was raised knowing the speech by heart by having parents that allowed his speech a part of my developing years. MLK Jr. also taught me that not that one day I will be somebody but, that I already am.
Kevin Langston, Annapolis, Maryland

I do not know why I was watching television during the March on Washington in August 1963. Perhaps it was because it was the last few days of summer vacation and I had run out of things to do. No matter. That day and Martin Luther King Jr. have had more to do with my self understanding, and understanding of others, than any other single day of my life. I was not taught to be a racist. In my family, people of African descent, Negroes at that time, were never referred to as inferior in any way. It was only implied. There was never a racial slur used, or an off color joke made. I grew up in the "integrated North." In reality, we were de facto segregated, and discrimination was ingrained in our culture and our society. We just did not openly admit or discuss it. After listening to Martin Luther King Jr's speech, everything for me changed. His speech touched me to the depths of my innermost soul. I can remember trembling with chills. From that day on I looked at each person as just that. I resolved to hold my prejudgments and to try to understand the individual makeup of each person. I will always be in debt to Dr. King for freeing me from the poison of racial discrimination. He is truly the greatest man that I can remember during my lifetime (next to my Dad of course), and that covers a long time.
Doug Beard, Austin, Texas

I am now almost 67 years old. Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, under legal separation by race. I am now a college graduate, semi-retired, living in an integrated upper class community, Catholic Deacon assigned to a predominant white community, grandfather of two mixed race children and married to the same woman for 42 years. Dr. King and his message has impacted them all. Never could I have been in this place in time without his personal leadership for sacrifice. I am eternally grateful.
Frank Owens, Chester, New Jersey

Dr. King has been a big influence in my life. His work and his life and inspired me to live my life openly and freely, to love those who are from different backgrounds as my brothers and sisters. It is because of him that I want to work in Multicultural Affairs, to make the world a better place, one person at a time.
Brandi Douglas, Hays, Kansas

I gained a new understanding and interest of the plight of black society. This has helped me to admit to and to rid myself of my own bigotry.
Robert Aiello, Cheshire, Connecticut

I'm influenced by Dr. King legacy through the power of voting. I come to realize hearing his speeches and what he stood for that voting can change things. Even though one does not come out victorious all the time, what this shows is, one is not a follower, but rather a leader. The ability to stand up for what one think is righteous.
Clara Furlow, Missouri City, Texas

It has completely ruined my day. Since only half of the city recognize it as a holiday, the other half who work for a living have to suffer. I had to wait until 11:30 to drop off my kids, so regardless of the reason, I had to waste half of a day. And why? Because a bunch of bleeding heart liberals can't decide whether or not it should be declared a "federal" holiday. Look, I don't care if it's a holiday or not. I won't lose any sleep, one way of the other, but please get off the fence and put it to a vote.
Read, Worcester, Massachusetts

I was 11 yrs old in '63 when MLK Jr. arrived in my small rural town 15 miles South of Greenwood, Mississippi. His legacy influenced my life by my voting and getting involved in election. It also inspired me to receive my bachelor's degree in Business Management at age 51. We owe a lot to God and the obedience of Dr. King.
Bertha Alexander, Wichita, Kansas

Martin Luther King will always be my hero. He influenced my life by teaching me that you must be patient and remain strong because change will come. I still don't feel that much has changed since his death as far as racism is concerned -- I think that now it is just more hidden. At least back then you knew who didn't like you because of your skin color but today its behind closed doors that the comments and feelings are displayed. I am patient though because I know change is going to come. I would be angry if it wasn't for Dr. King, I would be mad and I would have reacted differently to things that have happened in my life, especially when I was in the military. Once again I remain patient because I know change is going to come.
Donnell Nichols, New York

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