The Legacy Of The Dream
January 10, 2012
As we reflect on the dream and visions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this week, it's a time to look back at the legacy of the dream and the dreamer. It's also a time to remember the aftershock of an event that would plunge the nation and the world into shock and mourning.
The killing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a haunting example of the pain felt among African-Americans and the fact that this crime is not so much a matter of wrongdoing as it is one of racism and hate. White racism still exists today, although it is indisputably less virulent than it once was. America is more disillusioned than ever about both the issues of race and our system of justice. African-Americans' growing disappointment is not confined to the courts and Republican legislators who are cutting back long-standing federal efforts to combat poverty and racial discrimination.
Dr. King's life and career were remarkably short. He was only 34 when he delivered his landmark "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. in 1963. He was just 35 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. And he was just 39 when he was shot down on a balcony of a motel in Memphis in 1968.
Dr. King had a dream about African-Americans walking down main streets, sitting in the front of the buses, eating at lunch counters and no longer being afraid, no longer being forced to enter through and eat at rear entrances. In fact, Dr. King's back door was often the influence entry of one of America's most powerful leaders.
King was born and raised in Atlanta. He preached a philosophy of equality and tolerance that has impacted the entire world and eventually earned him a rare honor as a Catholic martyr, even though he was Baptist. His legacy lives on today, not just in history books, but also through the everyday words and deeds of countless people who still believe in and cherish his dream.
Dr. King's dream and struggles for freedom were not just black or brown struggles; they were human ones. He opened minds, hearts and doors in ways no one had ever done. He made us understand we are tied together in a human destiny of life and bound by faith. That's why we celebrate his life and continue to deeply mourn his passing.
2012 Will Be A Year Of Change
As we move further into the New Year, already we can anticipate some changes in our institutions, government, education, arts, business, radio and music. They all play an important role in advancing multiculturalism. We are, after all, part of an America of many cultures, people and languages. However, obstacles of prejudice and cultural ignorance remind us daily just how lofty a goal "justice for all" really is. Our challenge has become finding balance between the "pluribus" and "Unum" of our nation's motto: to become one out of many; to be different, but equal. In a multiracial society no group can make it alone.
The year 2012 will continue to be marked by some of the most revolutionary events in history: an election year filled with candidates bound with baggage and issues, tremendous economic and technological advances, globalization, and the emergence of a social revolution that has the power to change the face of today's society. We find ourselves filled with questions. What kind of industry and country do we want to have? Can we remain competitive in this decade and beyond? Can we move forward and still hold on to tradition? Will we continue working toward including rather than excluding those who are "other" from our communities, our schools, our radio stations, our record labels and our businesses?
Today you can travel to almost any city in America and see great super-highways. Similarly, the information highway can be a bridge that brings us together as an industry or one that continues to divide us.
Today's consumers can shop and buy practically anything, anywhere, anytime. "Going to the mall" without having to be there is turning into a real-time choice as consumers use wireless, web and cable technologies to pay bills and purchase products. Your best customer is still an educated consumer. Now the questions that emerge are who entertains him? Who educates him?
Apathy leads to exploitation. The availability in digitized form of any contest, music, software, movies and books has already become a major factor. None of these things were even in the developing stages when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive, but now, thanks to the new technology, everybody knows about King, many through the use of the new technology.
Someone said of Dr. Martin Luther King's murder back in 1968, they have shot the dreamer and now we will see what happens to the dream. Today, in 2012, Dr. King's dream lives on. Dreamers and the power of dreams are important, no matter who's dreaming them.
Dreams allow us to see things other people don't see. All of us, whether we want to admit it or not, whether we can remember them or not, have dreams. Some of us are living our dreams. Some of us are still forming our dreams, and, unfortunately, some people have lost or given up on their dreams. As we celebrate and commemorate his birthday, we want to encourage you not to give up on your dreams and to keep the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King's dreams and hopes alive.
Let's briefly return to August 28th, 1963, when the world witnessed the largest single demonstration in movement history. It took place in Washington, D.C. when King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Following the speech and the march, the organizers were invited to a reception at the White House where President John F. Kennedy was bubbling over the success of the march.
Some say the ultimate recognition of Dr. King's crusade to secure equal rights for all came December 10th, 1964 when, at age 35, he was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1966 Dr. King and his family moved to Chicago, so that he could be closer to the poor people in the North who were struggling and suffering. People in the poor neighborhoods in northern cities had problems that were as serious as the discrimination they faced in the South. King planned a Poor People's March on Washington later that year. Shortly before that march in 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis.
When Dr. King visited Memphis in support of striking sanitation workers, he led marchers through the streets to call attention to the reasons for the strike. Violence broke out, and a young man was killed. An investigation was conducted, and it was later determined that the violence was caused by paid provocateurs.
Dr. King was determined to have another, successful march, and a rally was planned for April 3rd, 1968. That night King delivered his famous "Mountaintop" speech, in which he spoke of his mortality. The next day Rev. Ralph Abernathy joined Dr. King in his room at the Lorraine Motel. The conversation was light. About 6 o'clock they went out onto the balcony. It was there that the Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles heard the shot allegedly fired by James Earl Ray, saw King on the floor, rushed to his side and phoned for an ambulance. At the hospital they waited until the word finally came that Dr. King had passed.
Black people became furious. We were angry not only because Dr. King was killed. We were angry because one of our most respected leaders, one who stressed nonviolence, was himself the victim of it. We were angry because we wanted answers. Answers to questions about why, although we were no longer slaves, we were still not really free. We wanted more answers about the life of Dr. King. We wanted to learn more about being respectful. These are the reasons why we celebrate this special day, the dreamer and the reason for the dream.
Dr. King dreamt of a world where elected officials acted more like statesmen than politicians ... where voters or all races realized that matters such as abortion and same-sex marriage are personal, not political issues. Where there are neither red states nor blue states, just United States. Where morality is shared, not legislated. Where Protestants and Catholics work together side by side in Northern Ireland. Where Jews and Arabs share territory in the Holy Land. Despite the tough economic times, these are dreams and goals we can keep alive, along with hope as we embark upon what is certain to be one of the most exciting and limitless times in history.
We have the power to deliver on Dr. King's dream. We can do this if we can accept the views of others -- even if they differ from our own. We can make this world, our world, a better place.
And so in 2012 there is still only one answer, just one way to remember the legacy of Dr. King. We must say yes to each other. Yes to diversity and empowerment. Yes to affirmative action as an anti-discrimination tool. Yes to working together. Yes to creating sustainable economic partnerships where our inner cities and big business both come out winners. Yes to King's dream and the ideals by which he lived.