On the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Two score and ten years ago, one of the great African-American leaders of all time came to the Lincoln Memorial, to give his view of the direction of race relations in America, and the ever continuing fight for civil rights and equality.
At the time, civil rights was an enigma.
Jim Crow still persisted. Segregation and discrimination were the norm. The upward mobility of the middle class Black man was limited by an opaque glass ceiling. Access to educational and financial institutions was limited. And the ability for minorities to affect the political system was virtually non-existent.
How times have changed.
A two-year old boy of mixed heritage that day saw a Black man praise the virtues of America’s heart, and 50 years later would be a two term President of the United States.
In fact, the opaque class ceiling that existed in 1963 has largely been destroyed. People of all races, creeds, sex and background can reach any level in society. Barack Obama simply is the penultimate example.
This is not to say our great quest for equality has been achieved. In fact, it will never be achieved. Martin Luther King understood this basic concept:
“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.
So the march for equality proceeds. The fight goes on. But the issues that confront us have evolved, and led to a much broader, wider issue than MLK faced.
Today, America is once again failing the words of our Founding Fathers, and the promise it made to all Americans. We face great challenges, but our leaders fail at every turn. As Mr. King stated that day:
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.
America is failing its people. And yes, that includes African-Americans, who still are lagging in economic freedom and educational access. But it is not failing those Americans alone.
White Americans are growing ever poorer and less educated. Hispanic Americans are struggling economically, as the economy and the government fail to meet the demands of today. Across the board, government becomes ever more burdensome, tries to give away more, and ultimately provides access to far less.
Every day, the rich get richer, not only on their own merits, but because we have a government that grows larger and larger, and thus, helps the rich benefit from the teat of big government. We have corrupt officials who make corrupt bargains with those ensuring their place in the power structure, while the remainder of America can only sit and watch.
But I say to you, my friends, my fellow Americans, that does not deter my optimism for the future. Because I also have a dream. My hopes reside in the core of what the American Dream truly means.
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.” But that means that we will not first look to the color of one’s skin to make our fair determination, but to the core of their being and their soul.
I have a dream that the few enclaves of prejudice that exist in America will continue to be marginalized and be wiped out. I dream that many of these places, not all of them in the south, will be called out for their bias and bigotry, not only against races, but also religions, political beliefs, and other concepts of social construct and politics.
I have a dream that one day, voters of all races will not vote by race. They will vote by ideas. They will look at the arguments openly and honestly, and give a fair chance for all ideas. I dream that people that disagree with conventional wisdom will no longer be treated as pariahs and traitors to their race, and we will never ever hear the term ‘Uncle Tom’ used again.
I dream of a day where every vote will count as a single vote; where access to the voting booth will be guaranteed; but also where we can verify that those that do vote have the right to vote, so we are confident in the democracy we all hold so dear.
I dream that children of all races, in all corners of this country, will have the choice and access to the educational institution of their choosing, because the great bigotry of today is the soft bigotry of low expectations that now is the rule of thumb for our public schools.
I have a dream people will not accuse honest patriotic Americans of bigotry or hatred, only because of differences in political thought.
I dream that people will accept the great strides we have made in this country over the last several generations, without clouding the fact that some improvements are still obviously necessary. I hope people realize how egalitarian our society truly is, compared to much of the world, even other places in the Western world. I see inequalities, but many of those are self-inflicted, and I hope and pray we figure out that many of our failures are because of our own stupidity than about skin color.
I have a dream that one day, persons of all colors, races, sexes, and political parties can talk openly and honestly about many of the societal and cultural issues that plague America, that hold its people back, that deter certain groups from achieving the American dream, without being accused of having racial prejudice in our hearts simply for discussing the issue.
And this is my final dream. My final dream is that my children, who are now 7 and 3, who are minorities in the great melting pot of the American experiment, will grow up in an America where they barely discuss race or ethnicity. That when they do discuss it, it will be in passing, and not at the heart of every political dialogue and discourse. Where their favorite political candidates are not scored based on how many boxes they can check on a census card, but the quality of their ideas and the content of their character.
That is my dream.
Only then will I believe America will be free at last.