OUR OPINION: History pushes effort for the dream forward

Daily Journal Editorial

Fifty years ago today, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a once-in-a-generation speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, a magnificent address known by its end as the “I have a dream.”

His words were spoken with cadences and inflections and soul-stirring conviction of an evangelist proclaiming deliverance, freedom and justice – with an invitation for all to join with a new, more expansive profession of faith in the American way.

Mississippi – where NAACP state leader Medgar Evers had been slain by a cowardly racist assassin less than four months earlier – was given great prominence in King’s remarks.

No other state needed to hear his words that day more than Mississippi:

“…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.

“… 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.

“… 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.”

The dream remains only partially fulfilled, and Mississippi in some ways resides in the areas of least fulfillment, but that is also too sadly true for many Mississippians of all races.

The work for the dream 50 years later, as King also said in Washington, must be a cooperative venture and a walk together.

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    Certainly, ALL people, not just black or white, need to join hands in the pursuit of this dream. Today’s poll is quite revealing. At the time I answered the poll 34% of respondents said ‘No’ when asked if they’d ever heard or read part or all of the “I Have a Dream” speech. Many of us weren’t born or were too young to understand Dr King’s speech at the time it was delivered. Many of our families turned the dial on the radio or the channel on TV when Dr King’s speech was being played. It certainly wasn’t referenced in 70’s MS when I went to high school: so you had to want to listen or read it and find a way to do so. Without that effort, many were lead to believe if you weren’t black Dr King’s speech didn’t hold anything for you but derision. How wrong we were!! I’m brought to tears every time I hear it. Take the time