Monday, January 19, 2015

Silent no more

Today as a nation, we take pause and remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The leader of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King spent nearly 13 years of his life promoting equality and peace in our nation. His life was taken from him way too soon, but his work began a wave of change forever changing American history.

We have come so far since his "I have a dream" speech delivered August 28, 1963. Segregation is no longer. The promise of the Declaration of Independence that all man are guaranteed 'unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and pursuit of happiness' still stands. We have the first black President of the United States residing in the White House.

But as recent events began to unfold in St. Louis, it became very apparent that in over 50 years, we have not yet realized the dream.

Opinions on the situation began to bombard social media placing blame on both sides. As I read through the comments and statuses, memes and blogs my mind kept returning to that day in Washington D.C. where the dream began. What made Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so different that those before and those since?

One part in particular, grabbed my attention:

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.

Dr. King spoke in truth. Then he took a stand.

He took a stand for justice.

He took a stand for equality.

He took a stand promoting peace among all races.

He didn't just take a stand against. He stood up for.

He called for the joining of hands. He didn't call for battle lines to be drawn.

And even more significantly, in faith, he took a stand in the name of God.
This nation needs a hero. Someone to take the legacy of love and peace that Dr. King began and carry it into this generation.

Violence is not the answer, but neither is silence.

So today Dr. King, on behalf of this nation, I'm sorry.

I'm sorry injustice is still rampant.

I'm sorry equality is still a fight.

I'm sorry violence has broken more souls.

And I'm sorry silence has spoken louder than words.

Dr. King, your dream is still alive and well. And may the Lord help us make it reality.

May we as a nation, as a generation and as a united people stand together for change.

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, and 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!3

Read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream speech in it's entirety here.

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