28Aug Martin Luther King’s I HAVE A DREAM speech

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  This momentous decree came as a beacon of light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering justice.  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.  So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capitol to cash a cheque.  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.  Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad cheque; 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.  So we have come to cash this cheque – a cheque 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 quick sands 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 movement and to underestimate the determination of the Negro.  This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.  1963 is not an end but a beginning.  Those who hoped 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.

There will be neither rest nor tranquillity 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 I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads to 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 their destiny is tied up with our destiny and they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.  This offense we share mounted to storm the battlements of injustice must be carried forth by a bi-racial army.  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 always 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 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 selfhood 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, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of excessive trials and tribulations.  Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.  Some of you have come from areas where your 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 redemption.

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 the Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can, and will be changed.  Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

So I say to you, my friends, that even though we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American 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, sons of former slaves and 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 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 governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that 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, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope.  This is the faith that I will go back to the South with.

With this faith we shall be able to hear out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we shall be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we shall be able to pray together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one 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 father died, land of the pilgrim’s pride; from every mountain side, let freedom ring” – and if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

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 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 we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants – will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual.  “Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

 

Delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.

2 Responses

  1. Chris McDonnell

    I listened to that 17 minute speech again the other morning, watched King’s courage and conviction in his delivery and tried to explain to one of my grandchildren the enormity of it all.

    It is important that the significance of those powerful days is not lost to this and subsequent generations, for in spite of the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency, there is still a long journey to be made to fulfil the dream that Martin Luther King shared with us that August day in ’63. With his own assassination less than five years away, in April 1968, his courage and fortitude inspired his people then, as does his story give continued hope to us now, in these teenage years of a new Century.

    Our church, with all its current problems, could do well to reflect on the trust and hope in those fateful words from that time, We shall overcome, for that is what the Spirit of Pentecost is all about.

    A fuller posting from which this Comment is taken can be found at http://www.v2catholic.com under the heading, Dream on

  2. Stephen Edward

    Most abortions are of black children and Planned Parenthood (one of Obama’s favourite organisations) was specifically founded to limit black births. Those black children who are born are usually deprived of a father’s presence and love (more than 65% of black children live in ‘one parent’ families for whites it is 26%). This was not always so, the proportions were much closer before the sixties came and offered the prospect of guilt free sex and the acceptance as normal of one parent families. Why the black population embraced this so much more readily than whites appears to be a mystery. The effects though are not mysterious the 13% of black people are responsible for more than 50% of the murders and these are usually ‘black on black’. Crime is much more prevalent and socially acceptable in black neighbourhoods.
    Black people acknowledge that they would be much safer being lost in a white neighbourhood than a black one and that whites would be much less safe than a black person in that situation (this should be called racism but is not – it is ‘understandable’.
    Many black commentators acknowledge that the loss of a strong Christian faith in their communities has been a major factor in the creation of this situation but, whatever the reasons, it does not seem to be one which can be reversed for many decades even if some very unpleasant facts were immediately faced by all those who might be in a position to respond to them.
    The black population has reacted with stunning indifference and indeed defiance to ‘affirmative action’ and the many other legislative and social steps taken to try make the playing field much more level than it has been historically. This subject is hardly touched because of PC considerations even by a black president. MLK (who strongly disapproved of abortion must be spinning).