As we enter 2020, Americans should reflect on the vision conveyed by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech given Aug. 28, 1963, during the March on Washington. More importantly, we should assess whether that vision is possible and still desirable. If so, then what are we doing to bring it to fruition?
Author and New York Times Op-ed contributor Drew Hansen shared that Dr. King was prompted by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” As he closed the speech, King went off of the prepared script with:
“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
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“I have a dream that my four 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 have a dream today.”
Throughout his ministry and leadership of the civil rights movement, Dr. King often spoke of “The Beloved Community” as the goal of efforts toward a just America and a just world. In 1956, King proclaimed “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men [and women].”
Dr. King’s dream for America was of a nation without racism and discrimination, without poverty and hunger, and without unemployment and homelessness. He envisioned the Beloved Community as establishing an international norm where “love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred....Peace with justice will prevail over war and conflict.”
As we begin a new decade, our Carlisle community continues America’s quest to embrace Dr. King’s commitment to service to others and we celebrate its 31st year commemoration of his birthday. We will gather Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2:30 p.m. for a short march in downtown Carlisle to the Old Courthouse for a civic program followed by an ecumenical service at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Over the course of the past weeks you have seen notices of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Commemoration with the theme, “Remember! Celebrate! Act! The Time is Now for our Beloved Community.” Carlisle community members and organizations will have the opportunity to gather and demonstrate support for ideals rooted in American values. Students of the Carlisle Area School District have worked diligently on projects to illustrate their interpretation of this year’s theme. Their thoughtful and creative works will be showcased during the commemoration event.
Our commemoration committee invites you to be part of this celebration as we seek to create our Beloved Community right here and right now.
You can track the work of your community-based committee on Facebook by following: https://www.facebook.com/CarlisleMartinLutherKingCommemoration/
Retired Army Col. Charles D. Allen is a professor of leadership and cultural studies at the Army War College.