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Tag Archives: Martin Luther King

Keep The Dream Alive

And yet they chose a different path. In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in with the moral force of nonviolence. Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us. They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglas once taught: that freedom is not given; it must be won through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.

The above is excerpted from President Obama’s speech commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech in Washington, D.C. — the greatest speech in the history of humankind.  And one of the keys for me is what is described in that quote above.  Like Gandhi before him, MLK recognized the power of peace and love.  Of turning the other cheek.  Of taking the pain and the hurt and turning it around to something completely different.  Those who hate couldn’t possibly hope to overcome those twin pillars of a civil and just society.  They faced hate with prayer.  Violence with peaceful, nonviolent protest.

For a brief, all too brief, shining moment in our nation’s history, MLK showed the way to a better place.  Where violence and hate can be overcome by peace and love.  It worked wonders.

Sadly, since then, his lessons have been lost.  Far too much violence and hate is met with simply more violence and hate.  I think it’s time to get back to MLK and his ideas.

 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

Day #6: Be Not Scared

Okay, I’m jumping the gun a little early on this, but it’s necessary to make this poem work, plus I’ll be busy tomorrow, so … here’s day six, written and posted on day five.

mlk dream

Forty five years ago yesterday

A great man passed away

He spoke of the power of love

And the power of the man above

His beliefs should have kept fear at bay

His words should have killed hatred in a day

In a moment those thoughts of peace and love

Disappeared not destroyed by a bullet, but on the wings of a dove

For his death we will most likely continue to pay

Somewhere, some day maybe we’ll live up to what he had to say

I Have A Dream

mlk dream

Simply the best speech ever delivered.  I don’t know how it’s possible to read this speech without a chill running down your spine.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. 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 guaranteed 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. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But 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. 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.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

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. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

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, as evidenced by their presence here today, 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.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, 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 slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

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 have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama 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 today!

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.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

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.

And 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, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

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.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom 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

Four More Years

I broke my vow to myself.  I’m back before Tuesday, but I’d like to think you’ll forgive me as this post is relevant to this weekend’s MLK theme.

Just finished watching President Obama’s second inaugural.  I really can’t describe how proud I am to live in an America that elected, and then re-elected, a black man as President.  Here’s where my conservatives will probably be saying “Ah ha!  So, it’s true, you voted for him because he’s black.”  Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not the case.  If Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens player and black) was running for dogcatcher, let alone President, I wouldn’t vote for him.  If Beyonce was running for President, I wouldn’t vote for her.  Now, if she were … well, never mind.

My point is, it’s not the color of the President’s skin that matters, it is as Martin Luther King suggested almost fifty years ago, the content of his character.

Barak Obama-United States-Politics

Back in the 80’s, I voted for Jesse Jackson in the 1984 and 1988 Democratic primaries.  Why?  Again, not because he was black, but because he gave a speech somewhere along the way that just turned me upside down, and then at the 1984 Democratic convention, he upped it a few hundred notches with a  thundering oration that brought me to tears.  Besides all that, what were my choices in those primaries – Mondale and Dukakis?  Um, no thanks.  I wanted passion and energy, dreams and hope.  Jesse Jackson offered that.  That was when I was young and a dreamer, believing in the possibility of the ideal.

I still have some of that in me, but as is typical when we age, I’ve become more practical, I think.  What I want rather than a visionary (even if I still want that a bit) is a President who is an adult.

Think back to 2008.  I can’t deny that Hillary Clinton was qualified to serve as President, but I don’t like political dynasties.  I couldn’t imagine the benefit to our country if we went from four years of Bush, to eight years of Clinton, to eight years of Bush, to four or eight years of Clinton, and then probably another Bush after that.  I wanted an end to the ownership of the Presidency by families.  As well, as much as I respected Bill Clinton and his accomplishments as President, I didn’t need the drama of a Clinton presidency again.

Into the gap stepped Barack Obama, who demonstrated all of the things I wanted in a President.  Responsibility.  Humility.  Consistency.  Steadiness.  In a room full of children, Barack Obama seemed to be the lone adult.  After the nominating conventions, it came down to him or John McCain, who, as a counterpoint to Barack Obama’s steadiness, showed an amazing lack of maturity and responsibility.

It was a no-brainer in November 2008.  Not because Barack Obama was black, but because of who he was.  How he ran his campaign.  The words he spoke.  The ideas he shared.  And, yes, in the glow of the election and his victory, he even spoke to my need for a bit of a visionary.  He offered a vision of hope.

Over the past four years he has remained the adult in that roomful of children.  And enough Americans saw through the hysteria of the election to re-elect him.  There was a paragraph during his speech this morning that hit home with me because it gets right to the point of what is wrong with America these days.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

This statement defines more than anything else the divide we have here.  After decades of a common understanding that the social safety net – affordable quality education, social security for retirement, unemployment for unexpected crises, medical care for the poor and the disabled, etc. — provided security to people so they could live their lives, take risks, spend money, grow the economy, become stronger, healthier and more successful, we have a sizable segment of our population who believe that the safety net is for takers and leeches.  They can’t possibly see, in their selfish little world, how their own lives will improve if the lives of those around are at risk.  I’m not sure why it’s so difficult to understand the truth behind “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

That was a bit of a diversion from the main point of this post.  Which was this.  America re-elected a black man to the Presidency.  What is clear to me as a result is that enough Americans have got past the meaningless insignificance of skin color and were able to look inside and see what mattered – to put into action Martin Luther King’s dream that one day his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  It’s a great day for America.  I only wish those who so virulently oppose the President could see that.

Here’s hoping that the next four years will not be like the last four – a primal scream of rage at the idea that “their” country elected a black man as President.  Here’s hoping that the next four years will instead be about coming together as Americans, not red or blue, black or white, but as Americans working together to solve our common problems.  Because, yes, they are common problems.  The wealthiest of us must worry about the poorest, while the poorest must take responsibility as well.  There is a common good we should be striving for – a ground we can all walk on without fear.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., said

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Quotes

mlk 2

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”  (Certainly seems appropriate to the current political climate, don’t it?)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from “Loving Your Enemies”)”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

“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.”

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