“I HAVE A DREAM…”
Much has been written about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s epic civil rights speech “I Have a Dream”, delivered in Washington D.C. in 1963. On January 16th 2014, Dr. King would have turned 85 and we take this time to reflect upon his words and their ability to inspire since their passionate delivery 50 years ago.
The “I Have a Dream” speech is a prime example of an ethical will, a celebration of values, beliefs and wisdom. It is inspiration intended not only for those fighting in the civil rights movement then, but for those he knew would follow and continue carrying the torch.
It doesn’t matter if your audience is hundreds of thousands like Martin Luther King Jr.’s, or a handful of immediate family and friends, our most valuable wisdom and wishes for future generations can and should be recorded and shared in one’s lifetime– before it’s too late. Like the “I Have a Dream” speech our own ethical will stands not only as a testament to what we have learned, but as a touchstone others can use to look back, identify with, and be moved to action. It is this that makes his speech transcend generation after generation and keeps it relevant to this day.
Touching all themes typically found in ethical wills, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech shares his values, blessings and life’s lessons, his hopes and dreams for the future and his love and forgiveness with family, friends and community.
Here is a brief overview of some of his powerful messages. (And for those who wish to read it, the text of the entire speech can be found below.)
1) Sharing values, blessings and life’s lessons:
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force…
… 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.”
2) Sharing hopes and dreams for the future:
“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 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, 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.”
3) Sharing love and forgiveness with your family, friends and community:
“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. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone…
… 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 …
… And when this happens, 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!”
We hope you take the time and reflect on the importance and relevance of Dr. King’s speech as we embark on life in 2014. We also hope you are inspired to take the time to record your own reflections for your heirs and future generations. Your messages don’t need to define an era to have significance or importance. All it needs to do is define you.
As promised, here is the “I Have A Dream” speech in it’s entirety. Enjoy.