Yesterday was Martin Luther King day. Every year when this day comes, I listen to his final speech in Memphis, my hometown, and his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
The first time I remember hearing his powerful words was in a communications class at the University of Memphis. If I remember correctly, it was a class where we studied the rhetoric of social change.
I can remember being moved by his passion and impressed with his rhetorical skill. But what left an indelible impression on my mind was turning to see my African-American classmates. They were experiencing his message on a whole different level. One young man sitting in front of me simply stared at the floor, shaking his head in agreement with an occasional verbal word of support. Another young man sat next to me, and I saw tears streaming down his cheeks. I was later to find out that it was the first time he had heard these speeches. He was experiencing the moment like many did the day Dr. King delivered it. He experienced the words in a way I could not because his experience aligned with Dr. King in a way mine did not.
One famous line of the Lincoln Memorial message still echos in my mind as it does in the consciousness of this great nation, “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. I have a dream today.”
His call was for America to live up to its ideals. Today I pray his vision is reignited in America. Not an image of division but equality. Not an idea like CRT that says the most important thing about you is your skin color. No. We are all created in the image of God. It is this that was the theological underpinnings of Dr. King.
No man is perfect. But occasionally, God takes an imperfect man and sets him ablaze to proclaim his will. May we remember the words of Dr. King and seek to live out the dream for which he died.