As a nation, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day on the third Monday in January, just as we celebrate the birth of George Washington every third Monday in February. Celebrating on a predictable annual Monday of a month allows civil service workers to have a true three-day holiday, but this year, our holiday coincides with Dr. King’s actual birthday.
Recently I read the full transcript of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech that he delivered on August 28, 1963, in peaceful demonstration for freedom in the historic “March on Washington.” In fact, he lived, preached, inspired, and died before I was born. Fortunately, we have records and video of history for future generations, a lesson for all of us to provide for our loved ones.
Dr. King’s speech has been preserved for all to read, study, and know. Across the state and nation, school children are encouraged to write an essay about Dr. King, his life, and what his speech of 55 years ago means to them today.
Adults today remember the phrase “I have a dream.” But, it’s the youngsters in school who have a teaching unit to learn about how things used to be in the United States and Dr. King’s role as one person making a difference to change things for the better.
Through these studies, many future young orators are born; children stand before their classmates and speak from their hearts. They discuss what they learned from their studies, their teachers, and maybe their parents in that speech. They learn what place Dr. King holds in our history.
The excellent speech Dr. King gave that day can’t be fully explored in a space this size, but there are several paragraphs that just spoke to me as I reread his words, and I invite you to read my blog for more and add your thoughts as well.
Today we have an opportunity to remember the power of one person, the eloquence with which a message can be communicated to clarify, inspire, and instruct.
That’s how children learn to grow, by studying the history of those who came before them. And, they also learn by modeling the behavior of adults and supervisors whom they see as authority figures they respect.
Those of us who grew up not knowing the personal struggles that Dr. King faced as he preached and ministered to his congregation, and later to our nation, cannot say, “I know where you’ve been. I know what it’s like.” But we can study his words, hear his intentions, and admire and respect his dreams because they were his dreams for all of us.
It’s true that Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech still stands today as one of the greatest messages of honesty and hopes for the future. It is his legacy that he gave us, and it has been well preserved. Phrases within his speech simply jump out at me, and by pulling just sentences here and there, I do so only because I want to share how his words can speak to me today, when I was too young to hear him the first time.
“We must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Conflict is a daily challenge we all face in our lives, no matter the context, no matter the occasion. We have choices to make in how we deal with others, whether they are family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues. Love never fails. Soul force is the force of love.
“We cannot walk alone.” Nothing in this great country of ours has ever been achieved by a single person. We must be united in our purpose to help, to heal, to hold, and to cherish those in our lives whom we know and love as well as new ones we have not yet met. I had a teacher who used to say, “No one person is as smart as all of us.” That’s still true. Together we can do great things.
“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, known that we will be free one day.”
No, I didn’t grow up in a day and time where I had to go to jail to stand up for what I believed in. Our founding fathers of this country did, though. They risked everything they had and stood up for what they believed in. Dr. King and those whose lives he touched did the same thing. It’s never popular and it’s never easy to stand up among a crowd and express an opinion of dissent when most there are content to follow the group consensus.
I was raised to respect everyone, that my word is my bond, and that I am accountable for every decision I make. Dr. King did not live to see his dream fully realized. But, if we all work together daily to show love and soul force to those around us, we’ll be one step closer to a way of life that embraces love. Today we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, and we appreciate his giving his life for a dream he believed in. May we all be as dedicated to our dreams as he was to his, for all our sakes.
Cody D. Jones ‘02
Owner & Community Member