In Remembrance of a Dream…Thank you Dr. King
Fifty years ago today, a great American made a speech as famous as President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about a dream, a dream he hoped would rise out above the nightmare that was segregation, the violation of black America’s civil rights and the rampant bigotry in America. A dream in which he saw all men and women as free; as brothers and sisters; and in which he saw the United States deliver what was promised to minorities by the constitution and by the blood spilled by Americans, both black and white – all countrymen:
“In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men-yes, black men as well as white men-would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro a bad check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’”.
When I was a child in the 1960’s, my great Aunt Nanny remembered a not so distant time when “coloreds” drank from separate fountains, black children went to different “but supposedly equal schools”, black men were denied certain employment and certain hateful words were used as an acceptable part of language. She also remembered what her mother told her about the civil war and why it was fought. About my great, great uncle who went to war and fought for the Union because it was “the right thing to do”. She remembered why the black man, who lived next door, Mosie Waynes, was one of her very beloved of friends and she taught me about why the color of a man’s skin was no judge of the man.
That was the 1960’s and people seemed to care about an awful lot of things that seemed at the time to this young child, and in retrospect to be important. It seemed people were less about “stuff” and more about what mattered; more about neighbors and less about status; and more about America; but it was the 1960’s and only two thirds of America can remember.
I know that in the last 50 years things have changed and a great many for the better. I know that the equality of people is closer today than in a hundred years. I know we are more sensitive to the differences in one another and why, when you get right down to them, they don’t make a hill of beans of difference. In fact, I believe we have finally learned to embrace the sheer beauty and strength of our differences.
It is my hope that Dr. King, Father Abraham and the others who have given their lives to the fight are all looking down upon us with at least a modicum of pride; at least a bit of optimism; and a great deal of hope that we will ultimately make it to where they had hoped we would arrive.