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‘I have a dream’ – Dr Martin Luther King Jnr.
It was the great man, Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. who said;
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King, husband, and father of four children, was famous for not being silent, and the reason for one of the largest demonstration gatherings of all time in Washington DC.
The day was 28 August 1963. The famous I have a dream speech was delivered. He was assasinated in 1968.
George Washington, in 1863, issued the Emancipation Declaration that all men held as slaves will now be free. He was assasinated in 1865.
There is something sobering about what can happen to figures who have changed the world for better.
Why is this the case?
Maybe there is no real answer to this question. Human beings can be strange at times.
In Washington, there were 250,000 present to hear.
Inspired by the growing movement for civil rights, for those marginalised, particularly those with a different skin colour; and even though there was freedom for slaves some 100 years earlier, there was still a long way to go, in Dr King’s view, for there to be harmonious equality.
In the words of well known key note speaker, Simon Sinek, maybe it was the ‘I have a dream’ as opposed to ‘I have a plan’ that continues to resonate with us nearly 60 years later. We can become swept up with the four simple words, but in order to understand the significance, and what has made it one of the most important speeches of the 20th Century, maybe the following summary may be of value:
- Today will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
- One hundred years ago (five score) Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
- Was a tremendous hope to millions of slaves, an end to their captivity.
- One hundred years later, the colored America is still not free.
- One hundred years later, the life of the colored American is egregation and discrimination.
- One hundred years later, the colored American lives in poverty in the midst of material prosperity.
- The colored American is still in the corners of American society and exile in his own land.
Declarations but little action:
- We have come to our Nation’s Capital to cash a check.
- The drafting of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, was a promise to all Americans.
- All people, black and white would have equal rights in life and the pursuit of happiness.
- This promise has not been kept, particularly for those of colour.
- The check has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
Things need to change:
- There are not “insufficient funds” as far as justice is concerned.
- There is too much opportunity in this nation for all.
- So we have come to “cash this check”, of freedom and security of justice for all.
- It needs to happen now, no cooling off period.
- Now is the time for the real promise of democracy.
- Now is the time for segregation to end, and to make justice a reality for all.
- Freedom to be invigorated towards freedom and equality.
- America must not return to business as usual. Today marks a new beginning.
Segregation needs to cease:
- Not being able to gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
- Ghettos being the only housing option, moving from a smaller to a larger one.
- Children are “stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity” by signs stating “for white only.”
- Coloured people in Mississippi cannot vote and those in New York have nothing to vote for.
There is hope through the injustice:
- No satisfaction “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
- Many have come from places of trials and tribulations, persecuted and harmed by police brutality.
- This suffering will bring about lasting change and you will find redemption.
- Go back to your homes (Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, slums and ghettos)
- Knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
- Do not despair; we have the difficulties of today and tomorrow.
“I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream:”
- All people are created equal.
- Sons of former slaves and slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table.
- Mississippi, “a state sweltering with the heat of oppression”; transformed with freedom and justice.
- My four little children will be able to live, judged by their character, not the colour of their skin.
- Alabama, “with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification” will enable children, regardless of colour to sit down and hold hands.
A dream of the future:
- Every valley shall be engulfed, every hill raised and every mountain shall be made lowered.
- Rough places will be made plains and the crooked places.
- This is our hope I will 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…..our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
- “With this faith we will be able to work together, and to pray together”
- “To struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together”
- “Knowing that we will be free one day.”
Let freedom ring:
- 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 father’s 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.”
- “So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire.”
- “Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.”
- “Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.”
- “Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.”
- “Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.”
- “But not only that, let freedom, ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.”
- “Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.”
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
As with all great speeches, Dr King outlined the problem, the inaction that has led up to this point; the fact things had to change, now, as people were suffering; provided an example with the segregation culture, even in specific US States; looked for hope and inspired to persist through the injustice, and then concluded with his own dreams and hopes for the future, and for justice to ring out all of the United States and even the world.
The result of such an impassioned plea was summarised by Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times in 2013:
“The March on Washington and Dr. King’s “Dream” speech would play an important role in helping pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the pivotal Selma to Montgomery march that he led in 1965 would provide momentum for the passage later that year of the Voting Rights Act. Though Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, his exhausting schedule (he had been giving hundreds of speeches a year) and his frustration with schisms in the civil rights movement and increasing violence in the country led to growing weariness and depression before his assassination in 1968.”
It would appear the world, particularly with the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, has still not really come to grips with both the words of Abraham Lincoln and then of Dr Martin Luther King. After all, it really boils down to basic humanity; I have the same body parts, I too have blood pumping through my veins, and I want a future and a hope within a civilised society.
Maybe if we truly got this, we would not need to hear such calls for change, as, both formally, informally, and more importantly, culturally, we would just get it and embrace it.
We are all human after all.
The commentary in this blog is intended to be general in nature. It is just some observations from one fellow traveller in life to another. If anything in this blog raises issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or consult with a trusted medical professional.
Dr King speech text taken from https://www.history.com/topics/civil-rights-movement/i-have-a-dream-speech
Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/us/the-lasting-power-of-dr-kings-dream-speech.html