Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A nonviolent moment in America: Martin Luther King Jr. - I Have A Dream Speech - August 28, 1963

Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington D.C. August 28, 1963
 Fifty years ago today in Washington D.C. following a nonviolent march on the capitol to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial over 250,000 Americans gathered together peacefully to demand that the United States live up to the values espoused in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution and the promise made  when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It was a nonviolent moment in American history in which citizens spoke truth to power. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the nation proclaiming his dream of the future of the United States.

Less than four years later in 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. would say that the dream had "turned into a nightmare" with the war in Vietnam and the black power movement that embraced violence.

On April 4, 1968 he would be martyred in Memphis, Tennessee shot down by a sniper while he was supporting a sanitation workers strike. His widow, Coretta Scott King, would continue her husband's work marching with 42,000 people on April 8, 1968 and achieved a negotiated solution to the strikers demands.

Fifty years ago today was a moment of optimism and hope that generated positive changes across America with voting rights laws that would soon be passed and government institutionalized segregation become a thing of the past. This was not because of one speech but through a movement that with its disciplined nonviolent resistance changed the United States of America forever. Reverend King fifty years ago outlined the movement's nonviolent vision: 
"This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."
 It is a message that is still relevant today not only in the United States but in many places around the world were injustice persists.

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