Fighting to Fulfill “The Dream”
August 28, 1963 was the day America saw one of the most profound, forward-thinking speeches in modern day history, delivered to our nation and the world. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a prominent voice in the civil rights movement, gave his prophetic “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His words not only instilled hope for racial equality and economic justice in America, they provided a vision that challenged the status quo, a vision of peace and prosperity for all. For the 48th anniversary of this great speech, our nation will honor Dr. King’s iconic role by unveiling the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. This manifestation of Dr. King’s image carved in stone will remind our nation of not only how far we have come, but how far we must continue to go, to end this, “lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
Dr. King helped all of us understand that “… the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice… ,” and that ultimately, we shall overcome. His inspirational message filled our nation with hope during some of the darkest times in our history. Though many pushed for separatism and isolationism, Dr. King espoused a philosophy with a core message of national unity. While those fighting for justice found themselves attacked by police dogs, hosed downed by fire hoses, beaten and jailed… Dr. King still maintained a stance of non-violence, hope, equality and change.
Even after facing jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. courageously and boldly spoke out against racial inequality. In the famous letter written in a Birmingham jail, Dr. King wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This message reverberated across the United States and around the world. Watching the intricate links between economic injustices and oppressive regimes across Africa and the Middle East today, these words have rarely seemed more prescient. The creation and dedication of this monument reminds us that the message of hope and appeal for an enlightened and just civil society is as relevant today as it was on August 28, 1963.
As a proud beneficiary of the civil rights movement, I am honored that our nation will unveil the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. I will continue to reflect on my indebtedness to Dr. King, civil rights leaders and the everyday Americans who sacrificed their safety to ensure the certain inalienable rights that my generation and our posterity enjoy today. Standing in the symbolic shadow of Dr. King offers a stark reminder of the sacrifice, vigilance and perseverance required to attain and maintain the dream of equality in our nation. The very idea fills me with the sense of obligation to continue the pursuit of Dr. King’s dream. With the unemployment rate in the African American community at 15.9 percent and the national unemployment rate for the nation at 9.1 percent, this struggle clearly continues.
I have no doubt that this August 28 will be a day for history, as it was 48 years ago. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, a beacon of hope, symbolizes both the progress in the struggle to make Dr. King’s dream a reality, and the distance we have yet to travel. Dr. King was a gift to humanity. He gave his life in pursuit of the fulfillment of the real American Dream, a dream where women and men will not be “judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” By extension, Dr. King’s monument is also a symbol of the civil rights movement and a tribute to all who sacrificed in the fight against racial inequality. Today we hold them and their sacrifices in reverence, and realize the courage of their convictions. Their perseverance through adversity liberated our nation from the blatant “Jim Crow” laws of racial injustice in our past. In his memory, we must move forward and address the less overt vestiges of the Jim Crow legacy today, the incarceration and militarization of young black men and women, a future Dr. King warned against — a future we can dismantle and thereby prevent.
I hope that the opening of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial will be a life-altering experience that inspires every American to rededicate themselves to the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream. I feel honored to share this experience with the many brave Americans who fought and who lost their lives in pursuit of making our nation a better place for us all.