Making the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. a reality.
I don’t know what it is like to be hated because of the color of my skin. I have never been asked to drink from a different fountain or to pick up my meal from the back door of the kitchen or to sit at the back of the bus. I may have had some struggles in my 40 years but I cannot name these among them.
Growing up white in the south, it has been a struggle for me to get my arms around the real history of the civil rights movement. I hear many who make claims that continue to stir up resentment between the races and get a free pass to do so because of the color of their skin and it makes me sad. I know it may be easy for me to say, but I like to hope that we in this country have made progress. I am not naive enough to think that racism no longer exists. It does, it is wrong, and it hurts. But I have seen things happen in my lifetime that when I look back on them I can only stop and be amazed. I have seen older white Americans go from using slurs to being offended by those who stubbornly refuse to do so. I have seen black and white families and neighbors befriend one another and look out for one another when a couple of generations ago this would have been unthinkable. I have seen people go to church together and worship God together and hold hands in prayer where once such folk would have worshipped on opposite sides of town.
On this day set aside to mark the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., I think it appropriate to remember what he deemed to be his dream. Here are a few words to describe the vision he had for America:
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.”2
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..
Dr. King was right. If we are to be a great nation these words must become true. Thanks to his work and the work of many like him both black and white we are now seeing that dream become a reality.