He was not the most popular among all people.
Nor was he without controversy.
But he was a man who spoke from the heart about a people’s needs and in defiance of those who would oppress righteous citizens in the very land that prided itself on human rights.
He was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., inarguably this country’s finest orator in support of the civil rights movement, a time of racial unrest that witnessed violent clashes between fellow Americans whose only conspicuous difference was color of skin.
In America’s years of civil instability, known to historians as “The ’60s,” everything was black and white. No shades of gray. No room for interpretation. No time for cultural tolerance.
Just black and white.
Until Aug. 28, 1963, at which time Dr. King delivered his now famous speech titled “I Have a Dream.” Rallying thousands of supporters — black and white and all shades in-between — with a cry of equality at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., it was the start of a racial unification whose trials and tribulations would outnumber its successes before people of separate colors and segregated pasts would agree to share a common space known as the human race.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the birthday of a great American leader whose dream was simple in scope yet complex in its delivery. His inspiring words came from the steps of a monument to someone history forever lauds as America’s original champion of justice, Abraham Lincoln.
Dr. King’s legendary words continue to inspire today with the same vigor they embraced five decades ago at their historic unveiling.
We quote these heartwarming excerpts:
“And 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, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners 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 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, and 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 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.”
Historians and followers of Dr. King’s cleansing message will recognize much is missing.
But this is not:
“ ... 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 fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride; From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”
Let freedom ring for all today, tomorrow and every tomorrow thereafter.
For people of all color, all creeds and all beliefs.
Today is a tribute to freedom.
Let its shine light our way and guide our step.