By Brenda Hammond
“I have a dream … deeply rooted in the American 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 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.”
These words are from the most-quoted speech by Martin Luther King — a speech delivered in 1963 on the centennial of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the keynote address of the March on Washington D.C. for civil rights. However, we have much more to learn from Dr. King.
His vision was about more than civil rights. He devoted his life to speaking out about racism — but also about poverty and war. His commitment to nonviolence drove the Civil Rights Movement, but he saw if from an individual perspective that can help us create connections across the deepening political and ideological division in our current culture.
“Compassion and nonviolence help us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves — for from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”
In this day also income inequality continues to grow and to eat away at the fabric of our society — resulting in poverty that is an embarrassment in a nation that is accustomed to privilege and excess. To again quote Dr. King:
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies; education and culture for their minds; and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.”
As we commemorate this Martin Luther King Day, on Monday, Jan. 20, his words give us much to contemplate and inspire us as we strive toward the realization of what Dr. King said he could see from the mountain top.
“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make American what it ought to be.”
Brenda Hammond is the current president of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force.
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