Martin Luther King And His Dream 2014
January 20, 2014
Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 85 had he lived. We celebrate the life and legacy of the slain civil rights leader before and after the official federal holiday which falls on the third Monday each January. To jog your memory, it took 15 years from his death in 1968 for there to be enough votes in Congress to get Dr. King a national day of recognition for his accomplishments in civil rights for Black, Brown, White, Asians, and humanity as a whole. The King holiday was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983.
Martin Luther King opened minds, hearts and doors in ways no one had ever done in this country. He made us understand we are all tied together in the humanity of man. His legacy of non-violent protest to advocate for change is the norm in our country and has been used by those on all sides of the political and cultural spectrum. Many of Dr. King's speeches read like a prophecy in the ongoing struggles in the areas of race, education, economics, and today the rights for gay Americans to marry.
I am a believer the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and that's why I believe it's so important to revisit the teachings of those who had a profound effect on mankind like Martin Luther King, Jr. His dream and struggles for freedom was not just a black thing; they were human rights which is why we celebrate his life and continue to deeply mourn his death. My original intent was to point to an excerpt from Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, but in reading it again, I realize the totality of it is so meaningful that a written sound bite would be a disservice. The speech is actually not long and his delivery and ability to use alliteration to reiterate or give us a memorable hook like a great song was pure wordsmanship. Portions of his I Have a Dream speech are like a musical earworm, those songs, jingles, and tunes that get stuck inside your head.
I Have A Dream Transcript
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've 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, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."Â¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And 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.
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, and 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."2
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:
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!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
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.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, 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 Reality of the Dream
Although Utopian in nature, many of Dr. King's dreams have been achieved, but the number of African-Americans and minorities on the Dream path are still below where it should be. The U.S. Census Bureau projects a "majority-minority" population by 2043, but for younger age groups, the tipping point will come by 2018 for children under age 18. This reflects the recent growth of younger new minority populations including Hispanics, Asians and those identifying as "multiracial." It also reflects a stagnant, aging white population expected to decline by 10% between now and 2060.
So the 2014 report card for Dr. King's dream is a work in progress with mixed results depending on who you are and where you live. Regardless, let's celebrate the things that seemed improbable at the time of the speech in 1963. For example, over the weekend in the NFL playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks and SF 49ers played each other and both have African-American starting quarterbacks; there are many in the league. Head coach Mike Tomlin and former head coach Tony Dungy have led teams to Super Bowl victories.
There is Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie in golf and in tennis Serena and Venus Williams. The University of Texas just hired Charlie Strong an African-American head coach and there are others in charge of major college programs. Major college basketball programs have African American head coaches and General Managers.
In the NBA there are several head coaches; former star Michael Jordan is the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets and Shaquille O'Neal owns a part of the Sacramento Kings, which touts former NBA star Kevin Johnson as the Mayor of the city. Magic Johnson is a successful business entrepreneur, sold his shares of the Lakers, has minority ownership in the Los Angeles Dodgers, and is looking to become the majority owner of an NBA team. By the way, Magic owns WBLS in New York.
Did I mention last year's NBA champions were received at the White House by second term President Barrack Obama? There are several women on the Supreme Court, including Sonia Sotomayor, a Latino. And African American Clarence Thomas has been a Supreme Court Justice since 1991. Other notable facts, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice both have served as Secretary of State; Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and numerous mayors, police chiefs, district aAttorneys, judges, and local councilman across the country.
Movies and Television
The numbers in the world of movies are growing slowly but surely, with directors Spike Lee, John Singleton, Malcolm D. Lee Daniels, Allan and Alfred Hughes, Tyler Perry and Keenan Ivory Wayans, and with "12 Years a Slave" screenwriter John Ridley leading the way. Let us not forget television's Executive Director, producer, and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal). On the mogul front, Oprah Winfrey runs a media empire including a television network, a magazine, and has too many ongoing business and philanthropic concerns to mention. National and local stations have a rainbow of minorities coming into the living rooms via news, sports, and weather.
Radio and Music
Cathy Hughes and her son, Alfred Liggins, lead the way in Black radio ownership with Radio One/TV One. Independent African American owners Michael Carter with KPRS/KPRT and Stevie Wonder with KJLH continue to be successful. Meanwhile, the number of Black-owned-and-operated stations continues to dwindle. In syndication there is Radio One's Reach Media, AURN, and Access 1 Communications.
The world of music continues to transition but there are still many black record executives flourishing and music artists are growing in all areas of pop cultural from fashion to sports cars.
Sports and entertainment have always led the way and even with the successes there are still huge discrepancies in vital areas. Here is a partial list of African-Americans and minorities who have found success in the business world:
- Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt, founders of MoviePass
- Indra Nooyi, Chairperson/CEO of Pepsi Co
- Don Charlton, founder of The Resumatorkk, revolutionized online job applications
- Kimberly Bryan, founder of BlackGirlsCode, teaches basic programming and tech concepts
- Tony Guada, founder of Bitcasa, an online storage market
- Christine A. Poon, is the Dean of the Fisher College of Business at the University of Ohio
- Michael Seibel founder of Justin.tv and SocialCam; Autodesk bought SocialCam for 60 million
- Eric Moore, investor in several start-ups including Zappos and co-founder of FlickrLaunch
- Ime Archibong is in charge of Facebook's Manager of Strategic Partnerships
- Malik Ducard responsible for developing partnerships between YouTube and film, and TV
- Ursula Burns Chairman/CEO, Business Group Operations, Xerox
- David Drummond SVP Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer at Google TV
- Ty Ahmad-Taylor founder real-time sports aggregator service FanFeedr, sold to Samsung
- Lisa M. Lambert VP of Intel Capital/ Managing Director, Software and Services; Board Member San Francisco Bay Area Venture Capital & Private Equity.
- Shellye Archambeau CEO of MetricStream a governance risk, compliance and quality Software Company, also on the Verizon Communications Board of Directors
The Moment Continues
I am sure Dr. King would be proud of the advancements made in equal rights since 1968. However, I don't think he would have not been content with the progress and would have continued the fight. It's up to us to continue to strive past all obstacles and achieve. The job is far from over and until all people are judged, as Dr. King said, "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" none of us should rest. Dr. King has placed a heavy burden on all of us, to carry on the cause for all men and women to be equal in every phase of the American experience..