"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, 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 their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is 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 languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve 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 the promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a 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. And 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 make real the promises of democracy; 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 lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood; now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. 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. And 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 worn 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 protests 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 a 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 they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always 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 the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality; 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 our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”; we cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote, and the 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 jail 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 South Carolina. 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, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, 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, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners 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, and every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be 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 brother-hood. 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. And 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 father 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 snow-capped Rockies of Colorado; let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes 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 mole hill of Mississippi. “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to 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.
I had this idea for the company that I do some social media for. It was a play on something I saw on Twitter a while back where NPR decided to tweet the Declaration of Independence sentence by sentence to some rather interesting results. To honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I decided to post his “I Have A Dream” speech on Instagram—not sentence by sentence, but paragraph by paragraph. Each post was one paragraph of the speech accompanied by an image with no quotation marks or references to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. except for an image of him at the rally as the first post of the series.
Shortly after the third post of the campaign, I was called and told to immediately remove the post because it used the word “negro” and the owners felt that it reflected poorly on the company—apparently they were getting text messages from their friends. I explained that it was part of the speech and that it would not make sense to take down that single post and keep the rest. In a sense, it was an all-or-nothing situation. After a short phone call, I was told to pull the plug on the whole thing and put up a generic image because the company did not want to be seen as taking a political stance. So all of the posts were deleted, the scheduled future posts were canceled, and up went a generic image of the rally in Washington D.C. and a generic apolitical message.
I am currently incredibly depressed and, quite frankly, heartbroken by this series of events. Fortunately, I have this platform from which to post my views to a non-existent audience, but at least I’ll be able to get this off my chest. Truth be told, I knew exactly what I was doing when I designed this campaign because I saw the results of the NPR campaign. I deliberately did not put any quotations around the individual paragraphs posted and I deliberately chose not to put the “- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” at the end of each of those paragraphs which would have made it incredibly obvious to any reader that these were words quoted from his speech. I knew full well that some people would immediately get it (especially since it’s written in a manner that few people today would write on social media) while others would simply have their gut reactions to it. THAT WAS THE POINT. The entire purpose of this exercise was to get us to read those words without the bias that comes from context. The reason that the posts were spaced out one hour apart was to give plenty of time to allow people to digest the individual segments of the speech. It was MEANT to challenge us.
Challenge us, it apparently did. So much so that I was forced to pull the plug on it a mere three paragraphs into the campaign. Ask anyone but the most blatant racist about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and you’ll hear nothing but reverence and praise. People will blather on and on about his contributions to the advancement of civil rights and they would be right to. What does it say about us, however, when those same people shy away from the very words that were at the basis of those incredible contributions? What does it say about us that we read them and then complain that they are “too political” to be posted by a company in 2019? It was August 28, 1963 when the speech quoted above was given. Take that in for a moment. 1963. It has been 20,235 days since the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “I HAVE A DREAM TODAY” to the day that I am writing this blog post. 20,235 days and quoted paragraphs from that speech are “too political” and “too inflammatory” for mainstream consumption.
Did I miss some point in my lifetime when the notion of racial equality and love toward our fellow man became a political topic? Did I miss the memo that suggested that fair treatment of our brothers and sisters of all colors is an inflammatory idea? I thought that these were given things that decent human beings with some sense of moral values simply agreed upon. I’m not talking Affirmative Action, Welfare, or whatever other social policies inevitably get rolled up into these arguments. “The Dream” was not a dream about public policy or government programs. It was a dream about the human heart. If we truly loved each other and saw each others as brothers and sisters with equal value and equal rights, we wouldn’t have to bicker about policies because we would already know what must be done for the sake of our own conscience. I won’t discount the tremendous progress that has been made since 1963, but today served as proof for me that Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream” in 2019 still remains a dream deferred.
So in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I will say today on January 21, 2019 that I HAVE A DREAM TODAY. I have a dream that one day we can talk about Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream frankly and openly without fear of some sort of ludicrous backlash. I dream of the day when we can be brave enough to simply speak the truths that we hold to be self-evident rather than to cower behind the facade of “political neutrality”. And cowardice it is, because the issue of human welfare is not a question of politics, but one of our humanity itself.