In his legendary “I Have a Dream Speech,” before the 250,000 assembled to bring change, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the profound racism built into the structure of the American way in contravention of the self-evident truths laid down in the Declaration of Independence. He described the “withering injustice,” the “chains of discrimination” and how the African American had found himself “in exile in his own land.”
He described the Founding Fathers’ promissory note, guaranteeing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as a bad check, one that had come back marked “insufficient funds” for the Blacks of America.
“But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt,” he went on. “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us, upon demand, the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
He told the crowd, famously, that he had a dream that day. 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.” A dream that his “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.”
“From every mountainside let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city—we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, 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.’”
Thanks to Dr. King’s passion, eloquence and persistence, his unimaginable courage and unparalleled purpose, it is a dream we can never undream. And it is one which it is our duty, each and every one of us, every day, to make come true.