Monday, January 17, 2011

I Have a Dream - Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was 48 years ago when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to deliver what has become one of the most moving speeches in the history of American rhetoric.  While there has been improvement in race relations in our country - part of the dream Dr. King had for the future of our country - there are still mountains to climb and obstacles to overcome in the way we deal with each other.  What would Dr. King's dream be today?  I am in no position to speculate on that; I would rather offer some of the things that I would dream about in 2011.

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 we will recognize that all people - men and women - are created equal and entitled to the same respect regardless of gender.  I have a dream that women will be accorded equal pay for equal work (there has been some improvement here).  I have a dream that in some countries where women are denied education it will be recognized that they have much to contribute to our society and need to have the opportunity to grow and learn.

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.

As I noted before, I believe there has been improvement in race relations in our country.  The most obvious example of this is the fact that we now have a President of African-American descent - something that would have been unheard of in Dr. King's time.  Regardless of our political affiliation we must see this as a major step forward in the acceptance of all races in our country.  But hatred still exists - in some cases there is still hatred of those whose skin color is other than ours; hatred of certain people because they worship in a different way from the way we do; hatred because someone's sexual orientation is different from ours.  I have a dream that one day we can put aside these hatreds and, as Dr. King stated: sit down together at the table of brotherhood (and sisterhood).

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.  And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village 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 Negro spiritual:  Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Those stirring words at the conclusion of his speech will resonate for years (and perhaps centuries) to come in our nation's history.  Yet there are still places on this earth where freedom does not yet ring, where people are still subjugated because of their ethnicity, their creed or other reasons.  Dr. King also quoted from Isaiah in his speech where he looked for a time when every mountain and hill shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.

I have a dream that one day peace will reign again in the mountains of Afghanistan, in the cities and towns of Iraq; that peace will come and Israelis and Palestinians can sit at the same table; that war will not be the answer for the peoples of the Koreas.  Is this too lofty a dream to have?

In the past week in our nation we have heard the reaction of many as they witnessed the tragedy in Tucson.  Calls are being made for better gun control, etc. but one of the things most often cited by people is the need for more civility in our discourse.  In an earlier part of his speech, Dr. King made these remarks not often quoted: Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.  We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.  We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.  Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

It is interesting to note that less than three months after this remarkable speech was delivered, grief overcame this nation when its young President lay dead in a Dallas hospital, the victim of violence.  We need to heed these words of Dr. King again today.  May we go forward to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow with a faith in our national purpose, a faith in our God who wants us to become a peaceful nation, and a faith in each other regardless of creed, political affiliation, gender, race, or sexual orientation.  May God continue to bless us and bless America!


  1. It is very remarkable to see how much change has been brought forth in these 40+ years. Yet people still hold to their prejudicial beliefs. I find this challenging when I am in a church setting, after all, we are all God's children.

    Yet, who am I kidding if I think I am free from these human behaviors? I think we are all called to continue to examine our hearts and act in ways that are charitable and good. So often we fail - I do anyway! And yet, isn't that the real message of Dr. King and of Jesus too- to keep at it and to know that God is at the heart of it all, transforming us. We can never do it alone.

    Thanks for this! As you know, I wrote on a similar topic today. Thanks for coming by!

  2. If the amount of energy spent on anger, hatred and prejudice in this country was actually spent on love and acceptance...imagine how wonderful it would be! Dr. King could see the possibilities...though we are closer to where we should be, more people still need to see.

  3. Christine that is beautifully put!