Monday, January 02, 2006

Let Me Be the First ... Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day

It is less than 2 weeks until Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Let me be the first to wish you a happy, productive, free, pro-active, and nonviolent MLK Day.

When we think of Dr. King, one of the first things that comes to mind is his well-known and rousing "I Have a Dream" speech that he gave standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Everybody recognizes certain phrases, sentences, and paragraphs from this famous speech. We all know those rousing and powerful words:

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 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.

Do we also remember that Dr. King's dream was for harmony and brotherhood, not animosity, between the races? In addition, his dream of harmony and brotherhood between the races was expressed in Biblical (dare we say "faith-based"?) language. He continued:

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 as sisters and brothers. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and 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.
And let's not forget that Dr. King recognized the role many white people
had played up to that point in history to further the cause of civil rights. He cautioned his listeners:

But there is something that I must say to my people ... In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred..... 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... have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

Dr. King clearly laid out some of the shameful conditions that must not be allowed to continue. Then he followed those statements with encouragement using the repetitive phrase "with this faith..." ; he presented his listeners with a rousing, inspirational challenge and a statement of patriotism with "let freedom ring ..."; then he finished with the best-known quotation from the speech - "Free at last..." Notice whom he thanks for the hard-won freedom:

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, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty... from every mountainside, let freedom ring!" And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi -- from every mountainside. Let freedom ring. ... we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children ...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!"

And thank you, Dr. King!

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