Today, in our area, as well as in cities and communities throughout this country, there will be recitations of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
That is, of course, appropriate. It was a wonderful speech, filled with many memorable images. Borrowing effectively from Abraham Lincoln, the prophet Amos, the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Francis Smith’s “My country ‘tis of thee,” and Negro spirituals, King eloquently called upon America to make good on a “promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”
His words speak to us clearly over five decades.
“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
“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 my four 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.”
But today it is important that we remember not only King’s iconic speech, but the occasion that led to it. It was called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”
Jobs and freedom. After 50 years, they are still in the forefront of our lives and of our national debate. How we look at our progress over the last 50 years greatly depends on whether we are prone to see a glass that is half-empty or half-full.
On the one hand, gone into the dustbin of history are separate facilities and water fountains for blacks and whites, segregated lunch counters, public schools and colleges that will not admit people of all races. Black athletes, singers and movie stars are idolized, and we not only elected a black president of the United States, we re-elected him.
We don’t know of any other country that would undergo such a critical self-examination and produce legislation to address inequity as the United States has done over the last five decades.
On the other hand, black unemployment is twice that of whites. Blacks are more likely to be poorly educated, live in poverty and to be harassed by police and incarcerated in our prisons.
Today, all-day events are planned at the State University College at Oneonta. We especially recommend attending “Keeping the Dream Alive,” a panel discussion at 8 p.m., and at 9 p.m., the “I Have a Dream” speech presented by David Mills.
Certainly, we have made progress, but we still have work to do to make Dr. King’s dream come true.