It was fifty-six years ago today, that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I have a dream” speech at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
The full speech can be downloaded here to listen to.
The speech is one of the greatest of all time on social justice and freedom. It was more than 156 years since the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States by President Abraham Lincoln declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
However, as Dr. King pointed out in his famous speech, the freedoms guaranteed by that proclamation have not been realized. I would say that today, in the 21st century, many of those freedoms are still undelivered. Racism persists, sadly with President Trump being a main catalyst. Instead of opposing the evil of racism, he degrades other countries, made up of non-white citizens. It is a horrifying reality.
If our leaders in the highest offices will not stand up for the rights of our fellow Americans, if they will continue to perpetuate this ugly system, then as citizens we need to take a stand. We need to oppose these people in free elections. We need to march and make our opinions perfectly clear. We need to resist a system of oppression from the inside out. We need to care. We need to not turn a blind eye to wicked, evil practices of systematic oppression and injustice. We cannot stand by and ignore these issues. We will be held accountable of the “sin of omission” for not doing what we know to be right.
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.
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.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. 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.
This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride (Yeah), from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (August 28, 1963)