The shadow of our past and the hope for our future

by Jan on January 16, 2012

40th Anniversary Of King's "I Have A Dream" Speech Remembered

40th Anniversary Of King's "I Have A Dream" Speech Remembered

In August of 1963 I heard someone say for the first time in my life, that I, too, can have a dream. That man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In those days I was a young mother with a newborn baby and two very small children, barely getting by. I was still recovering from a near death experience a few months earlier. Life was very challenging. I yearned for something more.

As I listened to Dr. King say “I have a dream…” I was amazed. Something deep inside me began to stir, awakened to a new possibility. The poetry of his words, his passion and his eloquence struck a cord in me that I had never felt before. It was what I needed to hear.

Eight times Dr. King said, “I have a dream…” Each time I asked myself, “What is my dream?” I had no answer. At the time I could not have dreamed of the life I have had the privilege to live. However, the idea that I was entitled to a dream, or that there could even be a dream for me, was being born.

It is unclear if his dream for a better America and its citizens was the “seed” for my current life.  What I do know is that his speech left me wanting to stand up for my rights and the rights of others who were not treated with dignity and acceptance. What I eventually recognized as hope and possibility took root, but it was a gradual change. It took a long time for life to evolve–so that I could become the hopeful woman I am now.

So it is with a deep respect for what Dr. Kings work was and with the knowledge that it is even more important today, that I share a few of his words from the “I Have a Dream” speech (excerpts below).

I have a dream today!

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 … 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.

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…

~ Excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

What he said in this speech 48 years ago is as true today as it was then. While some things haven’t changed, and many are still working to make freedom a reality for people who are still oppressed, worldwide, the idea that we can carry a dream that is bigger than we are is very much a part of my life, and a part of Hope on Hope.

Now in our world of twitter, cell phones and the million man march it may seem insignificant that “only” 200,000 people witnessed his speech. It was a brave audience and significant for both the time and their courage.

He may be gone but he remains with us, a shadow spreading the message of hope.

The Washington Mall from the Lincoln Memorial on the day of Dr. King's speech

Hundreds of thousands descended on Washington, D.C.'s, Lincoln Memorial Aug. 28, 1963. It was from the steps of the memorial that King delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech. King's many speeches and nonviolent actions were instrumental in shaping the nation's outlook on equality.