Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is one of the most celebrated in American history. In fact, the speech is considered the oratory centerpiece of King’s career as a civil rights leader.
While the speech actually contains 1,667 words, most only remember small segments. There is the part when Dr. King shares his vision for the kind of America that includes everyone:
“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 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.”
Then there are the moving refrains that speak of freedom:
“And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
. . .From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And then the powerful finish:
“…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.’”
The power behind those words are sheer poetry, they are exciting to hear. But too often, I think, people get so caught up with the eloquence of the words and the great way that King delivered them, that they make his speech sacred. But I believe Dr. King would admonish each of us turn his words into action. Because it’s not just his dream, it’s our dream too.
So as you honor Dr. King on Monday, I want you to hear in your mind your favorite parts and commit to doing what you can to make this dream come true. What can you do to help bring about the equality and freedom Dr. King spoke about?
You can begin by using the holiday to help the poor, assist someone with your skills and talent, or teach young children about his life and legacy. The important thing is to own the dream. Dr. King died more than 50 years ago. If we don’t pursue the dream, who will?