On August 28, 1963, over 200,000 Americans converged at Washington D.C., swelling its streets and hotels. They arrived by car, by bus, by train and by plane. Seventy-five percent of the visitors were black while the other twenty-five percent were either other minorities or whites. The participants converged at the Washington Monument where they started to march, even as their leader was still inside the Capitol meeting with politicians about their civil rights. The crowd marched, some holding signs, some empty handed, until they reached the Lincoln Memorial, the statue of the man who was responsible for the Great Emancipation a century before. It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that their leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered a speech that many consider to be one of the greatest speeches in history. Below is an excerpt from the "I Have a Dream Speech".
I say to you today, my friends, so 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 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 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.
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.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. 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.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
I am in awe of Dr. King's use of words: his poetry, his imagery, his knowledge of history. I am in awe of his courage: he refused to give up, despite death threats and jail sentences. I am in awe of his dignity: in the face of police dogs and night sticks and hoses, he chose not weapons, but words, God's words, to fight the civil rights battle. He went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. May his message live in our hearts today and everyday!
Photo courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org