I’m an eternal optimist. I always try to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. In light of the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I took the opportunity to read Dr. King’s famous 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech. It was easy to find and I would recommend reading it as a simple way to honor his legacy. Looking back at that speech, which was delivered over 57 years ago, it fuels my optimism that our country has demonstrated the ability to improve how we treat others, and still harnesses great potential to improve even more.
Dr. King delivered his famous speech from the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As we continue to deal with the crisis of the coronavirus, it strikes me that we still struggle today for jobs and freedom, as every state and community tries to find the proper balance to safely reopen their economy and restore millions of jobs, while balancing the strain on our healthcare system. Several remarks in Dr. King’s speech stood out to me.
First, Dr. King spoke out strongly against violence in his Washington speech. In his own words he said, “But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: 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. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.” The past twelve months have included an unprecedented level of violence in our country as people of all stripes have protested to have their opinions heard. We are fortunate that protests in our own community have followed Dr. King’s admonition and remained dignified and disciplined. He would be pleased.
Second, when speaking of the relationship between different races, Dr. King said, “…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.” This is true across all of our communities. For us to succeed as a community, we have to have a care for those less fortunate. East Texas is full of great charities which provide a safety net for those who are struggling. Whether the issue is medical care, food insecurity, job skills training, literacy or dental care, with the support of generous donors, local charities reach out to meet the needs of our neighbors. When an adult learns to read or obtains new skills to get a better job, their individual achievement gives us the opportunity to reach our full potential as a community.
Finally, Dr. King’s speech ended with his famous “I have a dream” statements. Dr. King said, “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 consider it a great blessing to live in a community where charities and nonprofits assist people based on their need, not the color of their skin. None of us get to choose the color of our skin or the circumstances and obstacles set before us. In this community I have never heard of skin color being a factor that has any bearing on whether a person receives assistance. The great local charities in our community are focused on people as individuals with unlimited potential. I hope we can continue this tradition and honor Dr. King by meeting each person at their point of need, regardless of their race.
We are not a perfect people, but our Constitution was created to help us “…form a more perfect union…” In East Texas, it appears that we have learned many of the lessons Dr. King was hoping we would take to heart. We try to keep our protests dignified and non-violent, we look out for those less fortunate, and we serve those in need without regard to the color of their skin. Supporting one of our great local charities that are helping our neighbors achieve their dreams may be your next best opportunity to honor Dr. King and Give Well.