August 22, 2003 - Mecca.org: Fortieth Anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream"

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Fortieth Anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream"





August 28 will mark the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech "I have a Dream" delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The Peace Corps celebrated its own fortieth birthday two years ago. Just a reminder that although much remains to be done, the ideals of brotherhood and peace articulated in the 1960's that brought forth the Peace Corps and the Civil Rights movement still remain strong and powerful as long as we keep them in our hearts. Read the speech at:

"I Have A Dream"*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



"I Have A Dream"
by Martin Luther King, Jr,

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. 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 America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. 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.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never 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.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, 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. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

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 slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four 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 the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together 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 with which I return to the South. 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 when all of God's children will be able to sing with a 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, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let 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!"



January 19, 2003 - A King of peace





Read and comment on this op-ed from the Boulder Daily Camera on January 19, 2003 on Martin Luther King Jr. and the sanitizing of his legacy. Ever since King was "mainstreamed," the media, politicians and the public at large have increasingly pigeonholed him as "the civil rights leader." King was an indispensable leader in the fight to bring civil rights to all Americans. But in celebrating that role, and that role alone, we've pushed another, equally important, part of his message into a deep, dark closet: his unwavering commitment to non-violence and pacifism. Read the op-ed piece at:

A King of peace*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



A King of peace

Nonviolence as key as his civil-rights work

January 20, 2003

One outcome of the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983 has been the sanitizing of his legacy. Ever since King was "mainstreamed," the media, politicians and the public at large have increasingly pigeonholed him as "the civil rights leader."

King was an indispensable leader in the fight to bring civil rights to all Americans. But in celebrating that role, and that role alone, we've pushed another, equally important, part of his message into a deep, dark closet: his unwavering commitment to non-violence and pacifism. Young people especially haven't heard enough about this part of King's message.

Most Americans accept the principle that all men and women are created equal (even if they aren't often asked to apply those beliefs in the real world) and troglodytes like U.S. Sen. Trent Lott are roundly condemned for foolish, racially ignorant remarks. So it's easy to haul out the "I Have a Dream" speech every January and applaud King the civil-rights pioneer.

Less comfortable, and seldom heard, are King's uncompromising words relating to warfare and violence. Like Jesus, he was never shy about offending people with his pacifist leanings. Now, as the United States stands on the verge of unleashing war on a small nation (full of dark-skinned people) that not only has not attacked us, but hasn't even threatened to do so, it's worth considering what King might have said.

King, who will be lauded today even by those most hawkish on Iraq, would almost certainly have viewed a war on Iraq at this time as immoral. Though it rankled many in Washington, D.C. during the 1960s, King never wavered from his vociferous opposition to the war in Vietnam. Here are some words of his you won't hear spouted on the Capitol steps today: "We have destroyed (Vietnam's) two most treasured institutions the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops ... We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men."

But Vietnam was different, some might argue. Wouldn't King have supported disarming a madman like Saddam Hussein? Not unless Hussein attacked first. But not only hasn't Hussein attacked, nobody has provided hard evidence that he even has weapons of mass destruction. King considered violence and war an immoral option in almost all cases, but especially in a situation rife with power imbalance. He linked war to oppression.

"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence," he said. "Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation."

As the Bush administration ratchets up military spending (and deficits), consider these words: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death," King declared. Yet almost 50 percent of the U.S. discretionary budget goes to the military. In 2000, Congress handed over $700 million a day to the Pentagon three times more than the Peace Corps gets in a year.

Even in the '60s, many who cheered King's civil-rights message chastised him for "confusing" the issue with peace. To which he responded that such people "have never really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, that ... suggests that they do not know the world in which they live."

Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. was a fearless civil-rights leader. But he was an equally fearless voice for peace and nonviolence. In this season of pending war, let's not honor one role while dismissing the other. He would not have wanted that.




Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

8/17/03
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