January 21st was Dr. King’s Birthday and many people celebrated by doing civic service – I did chores and slept in (bad me, I’ll be more civic minded next year).
Technically, Dr. King’s speech is not a poem, but it has a poetic lyricism to it – the repetitions, the images, the allusions, it even has a meter to it. I did not publish the entire speech just the end of it – my favorite part, but you can see the speech in it’s entirety here:
I do believe that Dr. King’s vision for America IS the American Dream – equality for all people, not this ridiculous idea that everyone should own a house, have 2.5 kids, a dog and a picket fence – that’s just stuff, not Justice, not Liberty and not Freedom.
I once heard a religious scholar talk about people’s vision of Heaven, that they believe it should be sitting on clouds, playing harps, or that it’s a place where you get everything you want and don’t have to pay a price for it (eat all the chocolate you want and never get fat or tooth decay), or ten million dollars (as Cartman from South Park put it). He said that that was too simplistic of a vision of Heaven – sitting at the right hand of god is more of a metaphor – that it is more of a state of mind: eternal bliss.
I think that it is more important to strive for that state of mind on earth, even if it isn’t obtainable – that striving for a dream of true Justice, true Liberty, true Freedom and eternal bliss is what brings the best out of people and when dealing with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that the inequity of the world brings forward. We should never forget that we are all struggling for Justice, Liberty, Freedom and eternal bliss together and that that person who is opposing you also has a heart and fears and struggles just like you. When faced with the worst of the struggle never forget to be compassionate, never forget to forgive. Those were the lessons I learned from Dr. King and those are the ideas that I will always put out to the world.
I Have A Dream
by Dr. Martin Luther King
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, 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.”
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 a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four 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 the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together 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 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.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. 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.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a 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. 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 snowcapped 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, 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!”