[August 28, 2019] It was 56 years ago today, August 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous and inspiring ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Most of us believe the importance of his speech centered on removing racial segregation and discrimination against blacks in America.
MLK’s speech was much more. Certainly, he was most concerned about how blacks were treated in America. He was also aware of American ideals, and so he drew attention to the U.S. Declaration of Independence because it was the core of America. MLK wanted to express the fact that our nation was not living up to this ideal but were on the precipice of rejecting the legal and social racism of our time.
“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.’”
MLK understood that for a nation to remain viable, it must be possible to live among one another; to show respect and care for one another, to be united. This is how any free nation must exist; else it will destroy itself from within. In the following sentences, he expressed the classic American view that it mattered not where you came from, what religion you practiced, or your race but that you could sit down with anyone and create a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners 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.
MLK also knew that the best way forward was to base social contracts on our hard-earned skills, not upon the color of our skin. He called it ‘character,’ and he was right that no free society can exist without it. We should never be judged based on our skin color, tribe, gender, or religion but upon our moral fiber; that which makes us a good (or bad) person.
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.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963
MLK’s belief in God and his view that all humankind was ready for the freedom we so often aspire to, is what drove him in his speeches. Freedom is in the heart of all Americans; sometimes, we don’t see it. Sometimes we need reminding, and he did exactly that for us.
“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!’”