Today, in the United States, we recognize the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
During his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, Dr. King issued a call, and a challenge, to the American people which sadly, remains unfulfilled. In his words:
“When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be granted the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”
But Dr. King did not surrender, or throw up his hands in despair at the lack of equality granted to himself and to his peers. On the contrary, his message was one of hope:
“…we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give ns upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
His speech goes on to urge all Americans to “make real the promises of Democracy” and “make Justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
Fifty-three years later, we have not fully responded to that call. In some places, of course, we’ve done better than others, but on the whole…we fail, individually and as a nation.
The Internet and social media, advancements which give us the power to unite and communicate with one another like never before, are teeming with hatred, division, and unhelpful critique.
Instead of raising one another up, we tear one another down, often (though not always) using the shield of anonymity to excuse and cover words we would never dare to say face to face.
And yet, it does not have to be so. We have another choice.
Like Dr. King, I refuse to believe that either this country or her children are bankrupt. We can still cash the check that Dr. King believed so strongly was the birthright of every person in this country–and this world.
The key is that we need to stop waiting for our government to cash it for us. That won’t happen. Not until each of us, as individuals, make a commitment to use the power granted to us–by virtue of our humanity, our consciousness, and our membership in the human race–to treat one another with the love and respect our fellow people deserve.
Dr. King’s speech resonates as strongly today as it did back in 1963. His message is just as powerful, and just as timely. It doesn’t take long to watch–five minutes from your day. Here’s a link to the video recorded that day in Washington.
Every one of us has the chance to pick up the banner and choose–to live the dream, or to ignore it.
I know what choice I’m making.
What about you?