Today marks the 50th anniversary of the most consequential speech of the 20th century by a non-politician as we Americans celebrate what has been called the I Have A Dream speech delivered by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
It was no surprise that the Speech was delivered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The message from the Rev. Dr. King was as powerful as that of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, when he proclaimed the Emancipation Proclamation.
It is a message that capped an amazing struggle that the Rev. Dr. King was leading to end the degradation of Black Americans and the spectre of segregation that still gripped much of the American South. An American South that politically was in with the Democrat party. Republicans of all stripes, though disagreeing how, did not support the segregation and the keeping down of Blacks in the South. But it was not just segregation. It was keeping people of color down by the government at all levels. Economically, politically and socially, Blacks and other non-Whites were to be blunt kept in their place.
To put it another way, when the Rev. Dr. King gave the Speech, major league baseball was only desegregated a mere 16 years. And in the South, only one team and that was the Houston Astros. The Braves would not move to Atlanta and the Deep South for another two years.
I use the sports analogy because while the sport was expanding, it would not go to the Deep South in moving teams and expansion. Even major league baseball was not sure how it would be to have a team in a part of the United States that still kept Blacks from drinking water at a decent fountain or eat at a lunch counter in a restaurant.
But for me, the Speech was a call to arms for Christians to once and for all be the leaders of the movement to end the government allowing for such injustice to occur. And it was a call to those of us who value freedom to seek this freedom for those irrationally kept from reaching their full, God-given potential.
Let me share this line from the speech that expresses the freedom the Rev. Dr. King was seeking for all:
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.
Now the Rev. Dr. King did not mean violent militancy but the kind of Rosa Parks who just was damned tired and wanted to sit down in the front of the bus in Birmingham, Alabama. The just saying no to the likes of Bull Conner and yes being violently suppressed.
But the Rev. Dr. King extolled the crowd that not all White people were bad. That many were there at the Speech and believed in the message of freedom. And here what speaks to me:
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.
Yes, I really believe that. Because it is our American destiny. To be one nation of people from all over the world to live the American Experience.
Read the clear Christian message the Rev. Dr. King was saying to not just those the victims of injustice but even to those who were the cause of the injustice. The Rev. Dr. King quoted the Old Testament prophet, Amos 5:24 here, "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." That was a powerful message to those committing injustice to free themselves from that bondage as well as a message to those that got it.
But it was not the total straight from the Holy Bible message but making clear that it was a mandate from God himself that all people had to change.
The meat of the speech was the dream itself. And that is what is needed to be read again and again:
As I have said, it is a message to the captives of the racism being practiced in the South openly, in other parts of the United States covertly. And a message to the real victims of real racism that someday all will be able to live together in peace and harmony.
We need that message more and more today.
And this message is sorely needed to be drilled into every single American every single day:
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.
Yes, yes, yes!!! We need to judge (note the Rev. Dr. King does not use non-judgemental language here) all people of content of character. I sure don't care what color one is. But I care how a person handles her or him self.
For me that is the legacy of the Rev. Dr. King that I take and try to live by as best as I can.
Many conservative people have been leery of this aspect of the Rev. Dr. King and what he was trying to accomplish. Many thought that he was too close to the Communists. Yet I can say that while the Soviet reds thought that they had a fellow traveller, he was using them because he needed all the support, however questionable, he could get. Why I know this is again, because the Rev. Dr. King was a devout Christian and could not support Communism or its goals as they were just as devout atheists as he was a Believer.
In retrospect, then President Reagan made a big error when he vetoed congressional approval of the holiday in the Rev. Dr. King's honor back in the 1980s. And I admit I was wrong to support that decision. For me I just was not certain of the true legacy that the Rev. Dr. King left on his country. But as time went on and I actually did some and research, I realize that the man was a great man and I think the only one that could lead the United States away from the era of accepting separate but equal that prevailed since the War Between the States or the Civil War.
A legacy of a true leader is the fact that from throughout the political spectrum, people can take something and hold on to it or indeed use that as their way to live life.
And that is not just the legacy of a speech read, no orated, on a hot day, August 28, 1963 by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. That all Americans can and do live it every day.