“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 quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
I have a 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.””
-Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream”. August 28, 1963
I remember every Martin Luther King, Jr holiday, our teachers in elementary school would have us watch Dr. King’s famous speech from 1963. His voice echoing for equality was beyond an young child’s understanding, but his emotion was transcendent.
As I have grown up, the memory of watching Dr. King echoes through my mind every Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. For this holiday, the words of “I Have a Dream” became even more poignant for me. This year, the holiday to honor Dr. King coincided with the Presidential Inauguration of an African-American President and I was fortunate enough to bear witness.
The crowd in Washington, DC in 2013 must have mirrored the crowd on the National Mall in 1963. The crowd represented individuals of all ages, all races, all religions, all creeds from all states regardless of distance. It did not matter who they were, or if they knew each other before the event, the viewing of the inauguration was like a reunion between old friends. We joked about the trees blocking our view, we cheered with our first peek of Michelle Obama, and we shared stories about what this moment meant to us.
The most moving part of the crowd for me was seeing the older African Americans. They had braved the cold, braved the crowd, and braved their health to be witness to history. As I watched the excitement on their faces, I wondered how many of them were able to witness Dr. King’s speech fifty years ago, not as a videotape as I remembered, but as a live event. The emotion of this moment for them was given away by their voices when they cheered, “Amen” during Myrlie-Evers Williams’s invocation. In fifty years, they had come so far from the injustices of segregation to having an African-American President sworn into a second term.
The t-shirt vendors off the National Mall and streets of DC got it right. Their shirts had a picture of Dr. King and President Obama, with the caption, “Dream Fulfilled”. What a profound inaugural day. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream indeed.