There are some very familiar parts.
“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’,” King said on that day. “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 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!”
Most of us remember those words; and these.
“And this will be the day,” King added, “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!
“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 molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
“I was born by the river in a little tent, oh and just like the river I've been running ever since; it's been a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come.
“It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die 'cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky; it's been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.
“I go to the movie and I go downtown, somebody keep telling me, ‘Don't hang around.’ It's been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come.
“Then I go to my brother and I say, ‘Brother, help me please,’ but he winds up knockin' me back down on my knees.
“Oh there been times that I thought I couldn't last for long, but now I think I'm able to carry on.
“It's been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come.”
Singing superstar Sam Cooke wrote those words. It was a song that was released following his death in 1964 at the age of 29. And it expressed many of the same dreams heard from Dr. King a bit earlier.
It’s interesting that in a speech delivered almost five years later, Martin Luther King talked about dying – “Well , I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
Dr. Martin Luther King made his speech before hundreds of thousands of people in our nation’s capital because of what he had seen in his battles for civil rights.
Sam Cooke wrote his song in a tour bus after he and the members of his band were denied rooms in a hotel because they were “colored.” He said that Bob Dylan’s song, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” had inspired him.
Martin Luther King and Sam Cooke were murdered – Cooke in 1964, King in 1968. Both were shot in motels. In different ways they both expressed their dreams of the future. Now, a half century later, we can evaluate those dreams.
Sam Cooke and his band would not be denied rooms anymore. And much of the integration that Dr. King dreamed about has happened. But there are still problems.
From New York City’s stop and frisk law, to the restrictive voter registration laws in Texas, there are still too many ways in which the races are not truly equal. It is important that we all keep working together with faith that we can make life better for all.
As Dr. King said, “With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
* * *
Words of Wisdom: “A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
– Colin Powell, former secretary of state and retired four-star general
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