Everything I need to know, I learned from the “I Have a Dream” speech

I tend to not be too serious. I tend to keep things lighthearted and fun and media-filled and nostalgic. But every once in awhile, my conscience will not let me be those things. It is ok to be real. It is ok to express the things that matter to you most. It is ok to get heavy and serious and reflect on history. Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day to honor a history-changing hero. Every year, I take private time to honor and think about the tremendous work of Dr. King.

But this year is different, this year my reflection feels like it should not be private. This was a year defined by so much national racial injustice. A year where a powerful black film Selma, was not recognized nearly enough by the Oscars — making a very loud statement in the process. It is a year that has put racism forefront in so many people’s minds. So instead of writing my column about, say, Stephanie Tanner, I’d like to reflect on a person who actually affected my life. (No offense, ya’ll. It’s Jodie Sweetin’s birthday, and she’s my girl). But today, I want to pay respect to a man who stood up for justice in America, and whose “I Have a Dream” speech, which he gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, still offers hope and strength a half a century later.

EINTKILF “I Have a Dream” 

1. Call it like it is.

Dr. King starts arguably the most famous speech in the country’s recent history with the words:

“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.”

What a bold statement from someone who could not have known the impact his words would have for decades to come. He called it correctly. We are taught the “I Have a Dream” speech from a young age, and we are encouraged to remember it at least once a year, every single year. It was, honestly, the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Still to this day.

2. Emancipation was not the only answer.

As Dr. King perfectly pays his respect to Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, he in the same turn, points out that freeing slaves was not the only answer to racial equality. As Dr. King states in his speech, “But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.” Dr. King gave this speech in 1963, roughly 100 years after slavery was abolished. It is 2015, almost 52 years after Dr. King spoke these words. I have my own thoughts about whether or not Black people are truly free in America, but I am not here to lecture.

3. Keep your head up.

Dr. King is widely respected for his positive outlook on racial matters. He spoke the truth, albeit he spoke it in a gilded manner. What many people are not taught in the classroom is that Dr. King was also highly criticized by some people of color for taking such a pacifistic approach to what was considered a very drastic situation. Though I was not alive in 1963, as a biracial young woman, I cannot guarantee which way I would have leaned. Regardless of who I (or any of you) would have followed at the time, Dr. King’s words are absolutely inspirational:

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

It is safe to say that leaning towards bitterness and hatred is never a successful way of life. (Something I need to remind myself of on a regular basis.)

4. Satisfaction should not be up for negotiation.

But Dr. King made it clear that he, along with every human he spoke for and in front of, would not roll over and settle for anything less than equality.

“We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality . . . No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

5. A change will come.

I do not represent all Black people, but I do represent myself, and I proudly represent my family, and I very proudly represent Dr. King’s speech. My mother is White, and my father is Black, and I am living Dr. King’s dream. It is a common motif in Black lives to focus on change. Sam Cooke sang it, Dr. King spoke it, everyone in history has hoped it.

And when Dr. King shared his dream to the masses, he immortalized that feeling.

“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.”

That will never get old. In the best of times, and in the worst, we will always have Dr. King’s Dream.

Happy MLK Day, you guys. Don’t forget about the meaning behind it.

Thanks for letting me speak.

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