Sunday, August 28, 2005

Remembering The Dream

...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 would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...It is obvious today that American has defaulted on this promissory note.

Somewhere along the way I memorized the "I Have a Dream" speech. Horrible at memorization and somewhat overwhelmed by the task, I have rarely taken it upon myself to memorize an entire speech. Three exceptions..."I Have a Dream," the Kennedy Inaugural Address, and the Gettysburg Address. Both the "I Have a Dream" Speech and the Gettysburg address were assigned to me as a high school junior in U.S. History, but only a portion of those speeches and they were imprinted in my mind long before then.

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the March on Washington. August 28, 1963, over 250,000 people converged on Washington D.C. to demonstrate their support of and concern with historic civil rights legislation. It of course was a year later, a president later, and many setbacks later before such legislation would pass. And with the March on Washington came a stirring and historic speech given on the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Several years ago I was in Washington, D.C. and as I stood at the Lincoln Memorial I was not emersed in the "Great Emancipator," but rather Dr. King as the words of his famous speech rolled through my head and left me breathless.

As one looks back and realizes the magnitude of the event, the March on Washington holds an important and sacred role in the history of civil rights. Within his speech, King addressed the implications of converging on the nation's capitol, he addressed the bitter situation in the southern states, and he condoned the governor of Alabama George Wallace for his segregationist stance. For me the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement came the moment Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus and the end came April 4, 1968 in Memphis when Dr. King was assassinated. But in the time between, in the moments that mattered, the "I Have a Dream Speech" was the defining moment. It was a moment where it was apparent to the world, white or black, that segregation, discrimination, and prejudice would not be tolerated. It was the moment when the world realized that when Lincoln freed the slaves and when Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal" they were merely empty promises.

Today on this significant anniversary plans are under way for a memorial for Dr. King on the mall in Washington, D.C. A memorial not just for the man, but for the march, the many men, women, and children who participated, and for the dream. BuildtheDream.org is accepting donations, suggestions, and support for the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. It has been forty-two years since a young, brave, and honest man stood at the steps of one of this nation's greatest memorials to peacefully address an important struggle in the history of human rights. It is fitting that his legacy, his memory, and his dream reside their on the mall where forty-two years ago he penned and importanta chapter of history.

1 comment:

Nick Speth said...

A few years ago, when I was still a journalism student, we had an assignment where our teacher stood up and read that speech and we were supposed to work on out note-taking skills. We were to write a news story based on the notes we'd taken.

Besides being a really cool assignment, I gained a new appreciation for the absolute genius of that speech. Say what you want about Dr. King, he was one of the greatest orators in American history.