We celebrate the lives of great men that went before us with holidays. Hopefully we each take at least a moment during the time off (or even if we are working) to remember the bravery and intelligence, the revolutionary acts and words, the sacrifices made by these people which touch our lives today.
Humility strikes me when I think about the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his very life, as did so many men and women before him, to create positive change. What are our troubles today? Politics, corruption, greed and corporations frustrate me to no end, but for the most part we bow our heads and keep our nose to the grindstone. We don't have a cause like Martin Luther King, Jr. did – and for that we should be grateful.
On the other hand, we don't stand up with a whole lot of strength and passion for things we know should be changed. I for one keep my mouth shut a lot because of my professional reputation. While that might be a sign of maturity, sometimes I think it's a sign of weakness.
It makes my heart heavy to admit how much of his "I have a dream" speech that I identify with, even if not for the exact same reasons. The "American Dream" has let me down. Still, I refuse to believe it is gone. Below is a portion of the famous speech. As you read through, you could substitute a word here or there and relate to it totally, couldn't you?
"In a sense we have 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. So we have 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 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.
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. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
I say to you today, my friends, 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.""
Me, I have a dream that I will follow in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s footsteps and win the Nobel Peace Prize – and live to a ripe old age enjoying the good that was done in order to deserve it.