The speaker began his remarks by boldly stating a vision that caused those assembled to rise for thunderous applause! He said:
“This day will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”
Standing in the shadow of the Lincoln monument, the speaker recalled the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. One hundred years ago, it had changed the status of more then three million slaves to free, on paper. It had come as a great beacon of light for millions, but all was not good. Black people were still not free. They still suffered unspeakable brutality, injustice, and segregation. As the speaker went on, the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who had just performed “How I got over” shouted to the speaker:
“Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!”
It was heard by only a few, but the encouragement caused the speaker to change direction.
The prepared speech was pushed aside, and he began to sound like a preacher.
While recalling the realities of denial of citizenship, the right to vote, segregation, and access to services enjoyed by others, he laid out his vision, his dream. In heart stirring terms, he stated what he wanted to see.
His dream was that his nation would one day live up to its creed, that all man are created equal, that former enemies could sit down at the table of brotherhood, that oppression and brutality would be transformed into freedom and justice.
Until then, black people could not be satisfied. In the words of the biblical prophets Amos and Isaiah, he called for the rough and crooked places to be made plain and straight. It showed that Martin’s position was deeply rooted in his faith. This faith, fixed in the transforming power of Emmanuel, “God with us,” would be able to transform discord into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
Do we as a community have a dream too? A dream to reflect more of the values of love and concern for others.
A dream that the Native people of this community, reservation, and country are treated with appreciation and dignity instead of condescension and prejudice.
A dream that those of other cultures who have moved here are welcomed and embraced and not called derogatory names or the source of our problems.
A dream that those who seek fulfillment in drugs and alcohol will meet the true, abundant life, Jesus, whose name means “Creator Saves.”
Can we still dream that justice will roll down like the waters of our beautiful Clearwater river and righteousness like a mighty stream?
Martin Luther-King knew that seeing the dream become reality, work, prayer, struggle, and standing together would be necessary.
Can we join in this struggle to make progress in the right direction?