Today, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our celebrations take many forms -- gatherings to commemorate the civil rights movement, speeches and recitations by students, proclamations invoking the most memorable excerpts from Dr. King's speeches, social and political activities that seek to answer the question: "What is the status of Dr. King's dream?"
I have heard the full range of answers to that question. Those who are trapped
in poverty will proclaim that the promissory note that America extended to its
poor is still being returned, marked "insufficient funds."
Those who are still fighting to remove institutional barriers to the "American dream" are demanding to be judged by "the content of their character, and not the color of their skin."
There are those among us who still suffer from the "unspeakable horrors of police brutality." They don't share Dr. King's dream that "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." They want justice now.
As we celebrate this occasion with the first Black family in the White House, some still ask, "When will you be satisfied?" Dr. King's response in 1963 was, "We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. The issues surrounding voting are eerily similar, and many do not feel a mighty stream of justice and righteousness. The movie "Selma" portrays events that we would hope were long ago erased from the American landscape. It shows us how the nation responded to those who shared Dr. King's dream, and the conviction they had to do something about their condition. The more important question is how are we going to respond to the assaults we are facing today?
As we celebrate Dr. King in 2015, the question that stirs my consciousness is "What are the dreams of my grandchildren?" It is important for me to know what they are dreaming about, and what future they are prepared to work to achieve. Dr. King's dream for them is the stuff of history books.
Times have changed, but systemic barriers still block our progress. Times have changed, but social inequality is still present. Times have changed, but gaps in quality education persist. How will the current generation influence the moral arc of the universe? Is the justice Dr. King dreamed of nearer or farther away?
In 1963, Dr. King observed that "the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land." Now, more than 50 years later, in 2015, what is our observation, and what is our dream?
Dr. King's legacy is etched in
stone. The legacy of this generation is yet to be shaped. The celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
has little meaning if we are not inspired to dream new dreams and boldly shape
the future with our own vision of justice and hope. But we must go beyond our
dreams and take actions that transform our new reality.
The torch must be passed to our children and grandchildren. We must help prepare them to continue the struggle for justice and equality. The road ahead is uncertain, but progress along that road will be shaped by their dreams and aspirations. I don't want to hear shallow imitations of Dr. King's speech. I want to hear a new speech that speaks to the future that they see. It is time for new dreams.
Roger Madison, CEO
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