Ms. Yolanda King
Daughter of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Board of Directors Member
Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
“We are all participants in the creation of the present and the future, whether we like it or not. Through silence or through our raised voices. Through work that activates and motivates or that which produces slumber. Whether we commit ourselves to what can be or passively accept what is—either way we go, all of us are participants.
“It is truly a joy for me to have this opportunity to share in this tremendous experience with those of us, those of you, who have chosen to participate in the creation of a better present and future.
“I had the blessed privilege and honour to meet Amma and receive darshan a few short months ago during Her U.S. Tour. It was a moment of transcendence for me, for I was able to grasp for the first time, the essence of true fulfilment and agape love. And so, I must first express my deepest gratitude to Amma for all that She have given to me personally, for all that She has given to all of us—indeed, for all that She has given to our planet. We are extraordinarily fortunate to be in this time and in this place with Her wondrously awesome spirit.
“What I cherish most about Amma is that She not only talks the talk and is an embodiment of unconditional love, but She expresses that love in action. She walks the talk. Mahatma Gandhi urged us to ‘be the change we wish to see in our world.’ Amma is the change She wishes to see in our world. She is a profound living example for all of us, and my prayer is that She will continue to be supported and strengthened as She inspires the best in all of us.
“And so, we come to this special morning and the launching of the Women’s Initiative. I am reminded of a poem written by poet Mari Evans.
“‘I am a woman, tall as a cypress
strong beyond all definition, still
defying place and time and circumstance
assailed, impervious, indestructible
Look upon me and be renewed.'”
“And, indeed, our world is in need of renewal. On a daily basis, we witness the violence, corruption, indifference. We watch the more-often-than-not painful twists and turns of history unfolding throughout the world. In the last century, technology has brought capabilities to us heretofore unimaginable. Sky-scraping buildings kiss the sun, majestic bridges and underwater tunnels cross the seas. Airplanes mock distance and time, moving people and products in unprecedented numbers. A global communications network allows us to pick up the telephone and almost instantly speak with people on the other side of the world. We fax and email internationally in a matter of moments. We have walked on the moon, photographed our solar system and sent radio messages to the edge of time. We have created technological miracles.
“And yet we do not have to look far to see that despite these achievements, the world is filled with discontent and unhappiness, with intolerance and frustration, with sickness, crime, violence and destruction. We have created guided missiles, but misguided men and women. Through technology we have made of the world a neighbourhood. The challenge remains to renew the world and make of it a sister- and a brotherhood.
“The reality today is the same as it was in 1964 when my father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. He said then—and it’s just as true today—’Although we have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the seas like fish, we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.’
“However, we do have choices. Amma has provided the vision magnificently. In Her acceptance speech of the 2002 Gandhi-King Award [for Non-violence], She presented the concept of Universal Motherhood. She said, and I quote, ‘Anyone—woman or man—who has the courage to overcome the limitations of the mind can attain the state of Universal Motherhood.’ She goes on to say, “The essence of Motherhood is not restricted to women who have given birth; it is a principle inherent to both women and men. It is an attitude of the mind. It is love—and that love is the very breath of life. No one would say, “I will only breathe when I am with my family and friends; I won’t breathe in front of my enemies.” Similarly, for those in whom Motherhood has awakened, love and compassion for everyone is as much a part of their being as breathing.’
“We women have a special and unique mission in life, a divine calling, you might say. We are naturally equipped for the job of renewing our world, of embracing our world. But we sometimes forget, and the societies from whence we come seldom take time to remind us, just how special and important we are. Our uniqueness as females among the human race is so basic, so utterly and fundamental, that we tend to let its importance slip away.
“In America, and I would imagine that it’s not too different in most countries, studies have shown that in elementary school, approximately 60 percent of young girls say they are happy with themselves. By the 10th grade, only 29 percent of us feel confident enough to say that. We look in the mirror and we see body parts—the face we’ve watched mature through the years, the ins and outs of a shape that we’ve grown accustomed to, two hands, two legs, two feet. The individual parts are so familiar that we rarely stop to think how sacred is the whole. Yes, sacred, for we are uniquely equipped for the special role of motherhood, uniquely able to link what was with what will be. We are the wellspring of life, and this fact makes us not only special—we’re downright miraculous! We are holy receptacles of a wondrous divinity and wombs for a world of love. Yet so many times we defer to others, undervaluing ourselves and failing to fulfil our potential. We hesitate to get out in front of people and issues, and our unique perspective goes missing from discussions where essential policies and significant decisions are made. There are times when our voice isn’t even heard at the kitchen table deciding our own family matters. We have to face it: sometimes, we women supply the very bricks that wall us in.
“The majestic poet Maya Angelou reminds us of our true calling as women. In one of her most famous poems, she describes women as ‘phenomenal.’ I would go further. I say we’re five-fold phenomenal. We are phenomenally invested with the abilities to heal ourselves and others that we don’t always realize. We are phenomenally gifted with a unique feminine grace that fosters peace among men. We are phenomenally lifted in order to soar to great heights as leaders and role models for our children. We are phenomenally destined to nurture growth in our homes, neighbourhoods and communities. And we are phenomenally created by God to hold the vision of peace and love and wholeness for all beings; this is the energy of Universal Motherhood that we as women bring to the planet. We are phenomenal.
“As women we must, as Amma charges us to do, ‘wake up and rise up,’ not with strife and discord—the chaotic ways that men have in the past chosen to bring change to our world, but with the soft yet strong, loving yet firm qualities of Universal Motherhood. We must give love a chance to change the world with patience, compassion and forgiveness, not threats and overbearing power—the eye-for-an-eye philosophy that, as Gandhi says, ‘leaves everybody blind.’ Women must rise up as women, not as ‘imitation men.’ We embody as our birthright the qualities and the tendencies that can make the world better not only for women but also enriching the lives of everyone, and enhancing our natural environment. It is time for us as women to bring our unique perspective to the forum of human affairs and to offer new leadership that opens the doors for new opportunities.
“Now, in order for women to take their rightful place in society, to play the role in life God has intended, there must be cooperation from our male counterparts. Men must come to realize that there is only so much that they can do to change the world without the unique and gifted perspective and insights of women. When all of us—women and men—come from a place of love, we automatically open up our hearts and we can each feel the principles of Universal Motherhood, we can feel the compassion and the unity. Men have to be willing to live from that heart space more often to help women to rise up and be women and not second-class citizens. Men who are brave enough and evolved enough to embrace the principles of Universal Motherhood make powerful allies. Together, we are an unstoppable force for peace.
“And so I invite you this morning to imagine a world where women and men alike recognize and internalise the qualities of Motherhood for the benefit of everyone. As Amma so beautifully captures it, ‘This love, this motherhood, is Divine Love—and that is God.’
“We are, indeed, a part of one big family, one interconnected whole, and as each of us, women and men, embrace the principles of Universal Motherhood and awaken to the deeper levels of love and compassion it offers, we will say yes to taking action. We will say yes to healing the pain and putting a stop to the suffering of women. We will say yes to the vision of a different kind of world, a better world. Peace is possible and now is the time!
“God bless you and thank you.”