The Fierce Urgency of Now

Answering Dr. King's Call to Action

James W. Horne, Jr.
President & CEO
January 2018

50 years after the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his legacy lives on in the continued fight for civil rights and social justice. In this difficult time for our communities and our country, now more than ever do we look to the inspiration he provided Americans through his activism, fight for social equality and the poor, and most notably during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

One of the most significant of King’s speeches came a few years later, however, in 1967. He issued a call to action for Americans to take action against poverty and injustice before the challenges facing those confronting poverty and injustice became overwhelming. In his words:

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”


Many of the same challenges that confronted the most vulnerable of our neighbors in 1967 children facing hunger, young adults in at-risk environments, senior citizens unable to fully provide for themselves – are still there today. For those of us at organizations like United Way, our mission to strengthen families and communities is guided by that realization of “the fierce urgency of now”. Every day represents the chance to help an at-risk youth break the cycle of poverty that threatens to entrap their future or to give a parent seeking work the chance to earn a decent living. It is up to all of us to recognize, as did Dr. King, that “there *is* such a thing as being too late”, and to take action now.

Such a call to action is universal and must be heeded universally. Locally, as we reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King a half-century after his death, let us answer his call to action by a renewed, redoubled commitment towards making a meaningful difference for the communities and families who need a helping hand to get ahead. By committing ourselves to this, we will continue to see the vision of Dr. King grow and thrive in the years to come.