Today is August 28, 2013.
Two score and 10 years ago, a man stood before thousands in Washington and shared his dreams with people struggling to see the hope for a brighter future. He stood in front of the marble marker honoring another visionary, Abraham Lincoln, who also carried forth the charge that “all men are created free and equal.”
The man was Martin Luther King, Jr. He had a dream, and he had the lack of desire to keep that dream to himself. And I’m grateful that his voice did not stay silent.
I’m white. I grew up in a middle class home with two parents who worked multiple jobs to send me to a private, Christian school. I do not even pretend to be able to properly relate to the words that MLK shared on that day. I can only imagine, and at the smallest of levels, what he and the peoples he spoke for were encountering on a daily basis. So perhaps I should stay silent on this subject, but my desire is not to offend anyone deeply persecuted by, as MLK said it, the “manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”
My only hope is to encourage us all to share the dreams within us. To not keep them to ourselves and to not stay silent when we feel a need and opportunity to create change in our arenas. Speak. Let it echo loudly and let it whisper softly, as the need shall be. But speak.
And as we speak our dreams, let us all listen to the dreams of others with humility and grace. In a seldom heard part of MLK’s speech that day, he says it best:
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.
Thank you, Mr. King, for being able to see a world that seemed so unreal to most in your day. Thank you for daring greatly and removing society’s attempted gag order on your voice. Thank you for inspiring us with your words. They still speak to us today.
We’re not done dreaming. There are still many people without a voice, and so we still have much to do. But your dreams then still inspire our dreams today. May we not, as you encouraged us, “wallow in the valley of despair,” but let us have faith that “somehow this situation can and will be changed.”
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.