The “I have a Dream”¯ speech that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. held some 45 years ago on the footsteps of the Lincoln memorial is turning in ways that he probably wouldn’t have imaged. For instance just a little more than six mounts ago we elected our first Afro-American President, Barack Obama. And although many steps are still to be taken towards a completely fulfilled dream, we are heading in the right direction. Dr. King’s encouraging speeches helped to motivate and lead the Civil Rights Movement to the stage we now find ourselves on. King convinced the audience to never give up, because what we believe in is still right and just. I believe that Dr. King’s Dream is alive in all of us and will continue to live in us for many years.
Originally Michael Luther King Jr. was born on January, 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, in the family of Michael Luther King Sr., Pastor to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Alberta Williams King, a former school teacher. Later, in 1934, both Michael Luther King Sr.’s and Jr.’s names were changed to Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. in honor of the German Protestant leader Martin Luther. Dr. King lived a modest life as a child, attended David T. Howard Elementary School and continued his education in Booker T. Washington High School, but would not formally graduate before attending Morehouse College at the age of fifteen. In 1948 he obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree in sociology, and in 1951 received a Bachelor of Divinity Degree in Crozer Theological Seminary. In 1955 Martin Luther King finished formal education in Boston University with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (McElrath 80).
Dr. King began preaching as a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was twenty-five years old, in 1954. There he contributed to the start of the Civil Rights Movement after a protest of Rosa Parks who refused to give her seat to a white passenger in 1955. During this time he supported the beginning of the end of racial segregation by organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott and later becoming the main public figure and the leader of the Civil Rights movement. In March 1956 Dr. King addressed the public a powerful sermon dedicated to the Boycott. The sermon was very strong and stressed the non-violence concept, and also the thing which King was and wasn’t willing to accept as peace (McElrath 105, King, “When Peace Becomes Obnoxious”¯).
“I had a long talk with a man the other day about this bus situation. He discussed the peace being destroyed in the community, the destroying of good race relations. I agree that it is more tension now. But peace is not merely the absence of this tension, but the presence of justice. And even if we didn’t have this tension, we still wouldn’t have positive peace. Yes, it is true that if the Negro accepts his place, accepts exploitation and injustice, there will be peace. But it would be a peace boiled down to stagnant complacency, deadening passivity, and if peace means this, I don’t want peace.
1) If peace means accepting second-class citizenship, I don’t want it.
2) If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it.
3) If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace.
4) If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. So in a passive, non-violent manner, we must revolt against this peace.
Jesus says in substance, I will not be content until justice, goodwill, brotherhood, love, yes, the Kingdom of God are established upon the earth. This is real peace – a peace embodied with the presence of positive good. The inner peace that comes as a result of doing God’s will.”¯ (King, “When Peace Becomes Obnoxious”¯)
Delivering a message of non-violence even after all of the wrong actions that were done speaks of his character and of the power of his words. Many followed Martin Luther King not because he was a leader who was merely fearless, but mostly because he spoke the truth and invoked the willingness to fight for anything else but for what is right and just. A message that even in contemporary society can be highly appreciated.
Soon, in June 1956, Dr. King was asked to be a guest speaker at the annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention in San Francisco. There he gave his “The Montgomery Story”¯ speech. In this speech he affirms that the injustice has plagued the blacks and that if things are to change the Civil Rights Movement should be diligent and united. So if the stated objectives were fulfilled they would obtain what they were fighting for.
“That we will come together and work together. I assure you that in the next few years we will be able to carry this ball of civil rights successfully across the goal line.”¯(King, “The Montgomery Story”¯)
Many struggles opened in front of M.L. King and the Civil Rights Movement before the famous “I have dream”¯ speech on the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial on August, 23, 1963 was introduced. In this speech King speaks of the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued and signed by a person Dr. King respected a lot, by Abraham Lincoln. So I can see where the symbolism of this speech being given here would have had the most meaning, here, by the Memorial to the Personality who helped abolish slavery in the United States of America. And now the steps, which one of our nation’s greatest leaders set on a hundred years before this speech, finally came full circle with the speech of Dr. Martin Luther King.
“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.”¯ (King, “I Have a Dream”¯)
Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated few years later, on April, 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. In spite of a tragic loss we should still remain diligent and respectful to his dreams of equality across all racial borders. We shouldn’t let all of his words of wisdom, patience, and hopefulness go unanswered and unfilled. And even at deaths door his words were so powerful that his wife Coretta Scott King requested that Dr. King’s last sermon, “Drum Major”¯, at Ebenezer Baptist Church should be played at the Funeral, a testament to Dr. King’s preaching and dreams.
In conclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings continue to influence many aspects of our lives and continue to motivate sermons in Church and speeches for public figures and political leaders, we honor King’s name. Dr. King’s legacy continues to be a goal to strive for humanity. Although many obstacles remain unmastered, we as a society should make sure that future generations are reminded of Martin Luther King and our continuing struggle for equality beyond all racial boundaries.