The Times West Virginian

Opinion

August 28, 2013

Fifty years after speech, King’s dream is living on

Words are powerful.

No matter what they say about sticks and stones, words have the power to crush a spirit or damage a soul.

Words also have the power to motivate an entire country to change for the better. Our words can endure long beyond our fleeting years on Earth and inspire generations to come.

Many may not have been alive to witness news coverage of the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, but we challenge you to find even a handful of people who would not be able to identify the man whose booming voice shouted “I have a dream ...” to 250,000 gathered near the Lincoln Memorial.

It’s been 50 years today since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered that iconic speech, which for many has been called the defining moment of the civil rights movement in America.

Dr. King’s dream lives on, though he was murdered 45 years ago.

Why?

“Dr. King had the power, the ability and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized,” said civil rights leader John Lewis, now a member of Congress from Alabama. “By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations.”

Lewis spoke that day, too, as did 16 other leaders of the civil rights movement to show support for legislation proposed by the Kennedy administration that June.

But not one had the impact of Dr. King’s speech, which many historians believed was mostly ad-libbed.

“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.’”

On this anniversary many pundits will ask the question, did Dr. King’s dream come true? Would Dr. King be astonished at how far this nation has come?

Yes.

Would Dr. King say there was work to be done to eliminate racism and sexism and bigotry? Would Dr. King challenge instances of profiling, institutional racism and injustice?

Yes.

That day, Dr. King said, “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

There is work to be done. Dr. King’s dream lives on because there are people rolling up their sleeves each and every day, dedicating their lives to building bridges and fostering love and respect for all of mankind.

The work won’t be done until 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!’”

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