‘I have a dream’ speech as relevant now as in 1963


LAST week marked the 57th anniversary of perhaps the greatest speech ever given – by civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr in 1963.

The fact that the most well-known part of the speech – ‘I have a dream’ – was almost an afterthought that one of his colleagues implored him to use is almost another story in itself.

(Read Gary Younge’s brilliant book ; The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream)

The reality today is that the very essence of that majestic speech, delivered by only one man in the world who could execute that level of oratory at that time, is perhaps needed as much now as it was desperately needed back then to wake America up from the racial nightmare that was masquerading as the American dream.

Take a look at this part of the speech:

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.”

57 years later and none of that hope and aspiration is remotely true today. Worse still, in Donald Trump, we have a Republican president who is supporting a 17 year old man who went on an anti- Black Lives Matter march with an assault rifle, shot dead two African Americans in what Trump referred to as, “self defence”.

That the president should defend a murderer who clearly was not going to peacefully protest is almost beyond comprehension, but the most worrying aspect of this is the message it sends out to further divide a country: ‘White America, get out your guns and I will defend you if you kill these protestors in particular, if they are in Democratically held areas of the country.’

In my lifetime I’ve never known an American president willfully stoking up a race war, and for what aim? To win an election?

His political gamble seems to be; stoke up enough racial tension even if it means lives are lost, and then ride into town as the president elect who demands law and order, President Trump seems to feel if he create enough fear of anarchy he can position himself the Sheriff in Charge to put things right.

It’s a desperate strategy that might just work. Here in the UK, it’s difficult for us to fully comprehend the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. But most of America do. Therefore, it’s not a quantum leap for a malicious President to poison the well of decency with fear and loathing particularly if directed against the African and Latin American.

This makes the anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s speech, which was heard live by over a mil¬lion people, that much more important.

Will the most powerful nation on the planet be plunged into a race and cultural war entirely of a president’s making?

Or will America be moved once more by a church man, a diminutive man who spoke those powerful words that transcended race, religion, gender and borders?:

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!”

Original article written in the Eastern Eye

By Lord Simon Woolley