On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I have a dream” speech. (https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf) Less than five years later, (April 4, 1968,) he would be dead, well before seeing his dream come true. Almost 56 years later, we’re still waiting.
One of the things I appreciate about his speech is that he gave it in front of the Lincoln memorial in Washington, D.C. Two of my personal heroes in one location. He called Abraham Lincoln a “great American” and gave credit where it was due. Abraham Lincoln began the “freeing” process. Much to the dismay of some people, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, to go into effect on January 1, 1863, if hostilities in the South didn’t stop, which they didn’t. Two years later, on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln. Why? History reports that the assassination was part of a larger conspiracy intended by Booth to revive the Confederate cause. Didn’t work.
One might think the moral of the story is to not give a speech, because you’ll probably be dead shortly thereafter. But there’s a much bigger takeaway…do what you believe is right, even if it costs you dearly. Both great men did just that. A hundred years apart, they followed their heart, standing up for what they thought was right, no matter the cost.
Dr. King recognized the progress we’d made toward justice, but he also knew we had a long way to go. One would certainly think that in a hundred years there would have been more, but it has been a hard-fought battle for equality. This year, 2019, it will be 400 years since the first slave was brought to Jamestown by Dutch traders. Have we made progress? Absolutely. Is it enough? Nope.
I thought about all this after CHRISTmas dinner. Work schedules and other factors made the gathering smaller this year, but there were six people stuffing our faces. It was one of the best dinners ever. Two of the people there were strangers. Well, that’s how they arrived, but they left as friends. No one should spend the holidays alone, and since I usually cook enough food to feed a platoon, the door is always open to people wanting companionship. As it turned out, we had 3 “whites” and 3 “blacks” at dinner. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but in hindsight, I think our dinner table was the real America.
Dr. King said in his speech, “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” That’s what we did, even if the table was in Texas, and I have no idea about the slave/slave-owner issue. Nor do I care. We can’t change the past, we can only go forward with optimism, taking the lessons of the past with us and (hopefully) using them to change the future.
I don’t like to discuss political issues on here, because they can be so divisive. But I will say this. Taking down all the Confederate statues won’t change the past. I really do think it will do more harm than good. Why? You can’t ignore what happened. If you do, you’re liable to forget it ever did and we’ll be right back where we started. In my mind, the statues stand as a stark reminder of how far we’ve come, and a warning that we don’t want to go back to where we were.
I have a dream, too. My dream is that Dr. King’s dream will be fulfilled before we reach the 100-year mark of his speech. We can do this. In order to do so, however, we should recognize how far we’ve come. We should congratulate ourselves on the progress we’ve made and resolve to do even better, instead of collectively beating ourselves up for our past mistakes. People really do get along together, no matter their race, and it’s about time we stopped defining things by color.
The color of a person’s skin, their country of origin, the language they speak, and a million other factors don’t define how we should treat each other. Dr. King used the words “dignity and discipline” which pretty much sums it up. If we all treat each other with the respect we deserve, we have a good chance of making it all work. It’s hard to see the other person’s point when you’re so full of anger you’re not listening.
Life is (and should be) like Noah’s ark. God told Noah to put two of each animal species on the ark. I’m not sure how it all worked out, but he had lions with lambs, alligators with turtles, bears with deer, and they all survived. Except for the unicorn. Not sure what happened to them. If all those animals can get along and survive, why can’t we? Here’s a thought. We can!