Martin Luther King Jr.’s ancestors were forced to come to this country; his descendants still struggle to be accepted as equal citizens. He championed peace and was felled by violence. He was a man of principle, and a flawed human. 

King pushed America to confront its contradictory truths. That may be why I feel most American on his day.

Under King’s statue in Denver's City Park this morning, a spoken word artist named Christian Steward offered a poem that began: “Love cannot be silenced.” Then we set off in our thousands in gently falling snow, led by Wilma Webb, who as a state lawmaker helped make King’s birthday a holiday in Colorado; her husband former Mayor Wellington Webb; and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

I’m an unabashed eavesdropper. As we walked, I overheard constructive conversations on the need to be open with young people about the hard work ahead. Marchers recommended readings and classroom speakers. One gentleman earnestly told a friend he happened on in the crown that he’s feeling energized because the current political climate makes it impossible to deny the power of racism in America, and therefore impossible to downplay the urgency of the need to fight for justice and equality.

Five kilometers later we reached Civic Center Park, where Bishop Acen Phillips addressed a crowd that included his children, grandchildren and great-granddaughter. Phillips, speaking in the cadences of King, told us: “It's your responsibility to make sure the dream lives on.”