the dream still resonates
I think I learned about the civil rights movement in junior high, and I remember giving a corny “I have a dream” speech for student council. MLK Junior day was first observed when I was in high school, and it wasn’t officially observed by all 50 states until the year 2000, with some controversy.
Thankfully, my children’s experience is far different. They attend remarkably diverse public schools where MLK Jr. is lauded as one of America’s greatest heroes. They learn his story in kindergarten and celebrate his message of peaceful justice and equality every year. They learn and play with children from an amazing variety of races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. They bump heads and learn to work things out as children, without labels. It’s not perfect harmony, but it’s a darn good start.
Occasionally I hear grumblings from parents about the “heavy emphasis” on Dr. King and diversity, which baffles me. I chose to send my kids to this public school, warts and all. I believe that if my children develop fond childhood friendships between different cultures, it will be nearly impossible to fear (or hate) that group as a whole, and it may be more possible to connect and make peace with different cultures later in life. Teaching young childen this message is one of the most important steps toward healing our world. As adults, we all carry some prejudices and stereotypes to overcome. Our best hope rests on each next generation.
Dr. King’s words, exerpted from his August 28, 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, still resonate loud and clear:
“. . .And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”
Forty-five years later, we’ve come a long way, but we still have far to go to respect all children as equals.
May we keep on keepin’ on toward that dream.