Today, people all over the world are remembering and honoring one of America’s most inspirational leaders — the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every January, on the third Monday, Americans celebrate his legacy of motivational advocacy for equality for all.

As we reflect on this great American, I want to share some of my thoughts on this outstanding leader who literally changed America and the world.

I have been blessed to serve the people of Virginia in various capacities, with opportunities to engage often with people in the many diverse communities that make Virginia vibrant.

Recognizing and celebrating our diversity makes for a richer society and a better country. Herein lies the brilliance of Dr. King’s dream—that one’s diversity should not be considered a liability, but rather an asset to be valued. And that all of us should be measured, not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.

During all my travels around Virginia, the one thing that stands out most to me is that everyone, in every region, without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender, wants the same thing. People want a good job so they can provide for their families, good schools to educate their children and safe communities in which to live.

We, as a country, have come a long way towards fulfilling Dr. King’s dream, but we still have work left to do.

As Governor, the most important contribution I made to Dr. King’s dream was to establish accountability and high academic standards for our schools, to make sure that every child had access to a quality education.

In the U.S. Senate, I led the charge for legislation to help remedy the “opportunity divide” created by technological disparities at America’s minority-serving institutions – including the five Historically Black Colleges and Universities we have in Virginia. By increasing access to technology, we leveled the playing field and provided our college students with important tools for success, both in the classroom and the workforce.

The higher one’s educational achievement and preparation, the more one’s earning potential increases. With a good education, one is more likely to secure a better job and better able to support a family. Stable families are the backbone of our society. That’s why, as governor, we created a climate where businesses could thrive. We lowered taxes and burdensome regulations on job-creating businesses, recruited businesses to move to Virginia, and provided businesses with the best workers in the country. And we added more than 300,000 jobs in Virginia during the four years I served as Governor.

This triangle of education, family and jobs is at the heart of Dr. King’s dream.

All public servants should strive to create an environment where everyone, regardless of background, has the unfettered opportunity to go as far as their hard work, diligence and ingenuity will take them. I truly believe this is what Dr. King gave his life for—equal opportunity.

This is a day that we, as Independents, Democrats and Republicans; liberals, moderates, and conservatives; people of all races can come together with unity of purpose to honor a man who personifies what makes America a great country.

Dr. King proved that a determined, positive person can come from a humble background and yet make a profound impact on our communities, states, country and the world. It is in that spirit that I take time to recognize and salute a man who made America a beacon that gave light to a dark world and we are all the better for it.

George Allen served as U.S. Senator from Virginia from January 2001--January 2007; Governor from January 1994-January 1998; and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from November 1991-January 1993. He is a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

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