“…I 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…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 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…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream…”
Delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech ranks in greatness to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Infamy Speech,” presented on the day following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
Dr King’s dream was not only a vision, a hope, and a possibility; it was not merely a pipe dream, for it was also a task, one that required the willingness to spend his life, and ultimately to give his life. His was a dream about equality, freedom from oppression, and the recognition that even those who oppose us are our sisters and brothers. What Dr King modeled for us in the face of the hateful reaction to his message was expressed in his saying, “Whom you would change, you must first love.”
A dream of this sort is not looked upon kindly by those who find comfort in homogeneity. For them, diversity is a threat rather than a reality that adds to the beauty of the mosaic that is humanity. Dr King’s dream challenges us to look closely at ourselves and at our sometimes subtle attitudes and outlooks that contribute to a world at odds. If we dig beneath the rubble of our judgments, stereotypes, insecurities, and fears, we may find that our thinking about differences political, racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation, and the like, do not align with the person we would like to be.
French poet Paul Valery says the best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up! So too, the best way to make our day dreams come to fruition is to “get up.” Whether our dreams are in the socio-political, professional, or personal arenas of life, wrongs can be righted and improvements can be made – if we are up to the challenge of acknowledging and confronting our unconscious prejudices.