Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the civil rights March on Washington, and this morning I again listened to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It made me cry; it makes me cry every time I listen to the dedication and purpose, the emotion and strength and the hope in his voice. Today I carry that hope forward as I think about where we were then compared to now and how much further hopefully all of us will go to continue to carry his dream forward.
The Power of a King
I feel so fortunate to have lived during King’s all too short lifetime. He and I share a birthday but when I came along he was already 19 years old, nearly halfway through his short life before he would be assassinated while doing what he loved best, peacefully championing the rights of black people in the U.S.
King used his sparkling speaking abilities, which were developed as a Baptist minister, to emphasize the need for continued action and peaceful demonstration if we, as a nation, were truly going to represent the equality of all people. As he said in his speech, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair…” but focus on how we can make changes to enhance the lives of those who are discriminated against.
King equated the civil rights movement with the highest and noblest ideals of the American tradition, allowing many to see for the first time the importance and urgency of racial equality. Throughout his entire life I believe King knew we could change.
What Has Been Accomplished
The civil rights movement has been a broad spectrum from no freedom, few choices, and a small collective voice for most African Americans over time to celebrating the first black man as the leader of the free world. While it may seem we’ve gotten to the end of the spectrum, there is still a long way to go in terms of equality for people of color in this country.
The Future and My Part In It
My dream is that the celebration and embracing of ALL peoples continues to unfold exponentially around the world.
I’m going to look to the future with hope and possibilities. We have the capacity to change. I am committed to living my life with an eye to discrimination in my attitude toward not only different races but in anything that stands to represent different choices and ways of being than I’m familiar with. I don’t have time to shut people out of my life because their beliefs or ideals are different from mine or because they look different than me.
I will NOT be distracted by comic media that tries to bedazzle me with false issues as a sideshow, such as looking to place political blame for our inertia. This only promotes inaction which thwarts us from moving forward and making real progress toward equality. I am only one person, but I have a heart and I have the power to seek a truth that brings about the changes we need, the changes that will benefit all future generations.
The anniversary of the March on Washington has given me hope and King continues to inspire me to do what I can to keep his dream alive.
– Helen Keller