01/17/2011 08:08 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Would Dr. King Be Disappointed With America Today?

Though it's been nearly forty-three years since his untimely death in recent years there has been renewed interest in the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 2008 book titled "April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America" became a bestseller. And recently it was announced that Oscar winner Halle Berry might soon make her Broadway debut in a play about Dr. King, co-starring fellow A-lister Samuel L. Jackson. The recent assassination attempt on Congresswoman Giffords also caused many Americans to reflect on the death of Dr. King, who was felled by an assassin's bullet.

But Dr. King first began returning to the forefront of many Americans' minds during the 2008 election. Once then Senator Barack Obama officially became a viable candidate for the presidency of the United States there were countless Americans, black and white, that wondered, "What would Dr. King think if he were alive to see this?"

I can only imagine that the man whose dream consisted of one day seeing "little black boys and black girls... join hands with little white boys and white girls" would be tickled pink to see that not only did our country elect its first black president, but that that president accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream Speech," and is actually the product of a union between a black man and a white woman that began sitting side by side in the same classroom.

But there are some things that I believe that Dr. King would not be so tickled about. I think he might actually be disappointed to see the lack of progress we've made on certain issues.

In a 1967 speech before the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King said the following: "And one day we must ask the question, 'Why are there forty million poor people in America?'" Yet nearly half a century after his death we find ourselves still asking the same question. According to the latest statistics there are nearly 37 million Americans currently living in poverty and those numbers from 5 years ago don't tell the story of those Americans pushed to the brink by our recent recession. King would probably be surprised that legislative debates about why someone of a different race deserves the right to vote have been replaced by debates about why a poor person who has lost his or her job deserves unemployment benefits.

He would probably also be surprised to see that debates about whether or not it should be illegal to make hiring decisions based on race have been replaced by debates about whether or not it should be illegal to make hiring decisions based on sexual orientation. At the moment it is still legal to fire someone for being gay in thirty states. While I can't say for a fact where Martin Luther King stood on gay rights, I can say where he stood on equal rights. He was for them.

I can also say that his widow Coretta came out as a supporter of LGBT rights later in her life. (Click here to see more Civil Rights leaders who support LGBT rights.)

So as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King and the realization of so many of his dreams, here's hoping that by his next birthday we will be closer to realizing a few more of them.

This piece previously appeared on for which Goff is a Contributing Editor.