Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The State of the Dream

Fifty years ago today, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what is unquestionably one of the greatest oratorical presentations of the American Ideal ever uttered. As he delivered his masterpiece, I was growing in my mother’s womb along with her dreams - and those of my father - that our nation, the United States of America, was on the threshold of seeing the written declarations of freedom for all people transform into an actualized reality of freedom in the everyday lives of every American inhabitant. By that year’s end, I myself would be a living, breathing reality and Dr. King’s speech would be the durable portrait of what true freedom should look like in the great American Society. As I reflect on the content of the speech, I feel privileged that both I and the speech turn 50 this year. Until recently, I had never contemplated the fact that I have been a frontline participant in seeing many of the yearnings Dr. Kind voiced weave their way into the normal fabric of life in these United States. I have been on the leading edge of truly integrated opportunities that had not been available on a large-scale racially integrated basis prior to my generation. I have witnessed first-hand, the joy of Caucasian elders who had longed for the day they could legally and socially pour their love into the lives of all children and I have also reaped the benefit of that love. At the same time, I have witnessed the hardened refusal of others to accept the equality of all Americans and have also suffered setbacks from time to time as the result of schemes and machinations designed to “turn back the clock” to a time where opportunities were not equal and some people liked it that way. I have experienced the reality of the dream and I have felt the dream deferred – at the same time. For that reason, whenever I hear the question, “Has Dr. King’s dream been realized?” very clear thoughts and feelings are stirred within me. First of all, the dream is not exclusively Dr. King’s. His dream is the American Dream. All true patriots yearn for the freedom of all people, in all places at all times. Dr. King’s words helped to bring a course correction to the powerful and eloquent words uttered by our Founding Fathers almost two centuries prior to his speech. They certainly understood the power and beauty of freedom, but the tolerance of the “peculiar institution” of slavery dampened the power of their words and gave their righteous tones a slightly hollow ring. Dr. King’s pronouncements helped to interpolate the Founders words, breathing new life into them and enduing them with the full impact they deserved. Now Freedom could ring! Secondly, dreams are made into reality by nothing less than Herculean effort exacted at the cost of human effort through the production of blood, sweat and tears, generation after generation. With respect to freedom and equality in our nation, there will never be a time when we, the people of the United States, will be able to rest on our haunches and say, “Now there! We’ve made it! It’s Miller Time!” Maintaining freedom within our borders and protecting our freedom from threats from without, will always call for constant vigilance, on-going sacrifice and never-ending commitment. We will continue to experience better days and dreams fulfilled only as long as we are willing the face the nightmare of the reality of evil in this world with sobriety, determination and devotion to duty as good citizens of a free land. My plea as one who has witnessed the unfolding of “the dream” “up close and personally” is this: Let us cease the idolization of Dr. King’s “Dream Speech.” While we are certainly right to study and admire this work as one of the most masterful pieces of oratory ever delivered in United States History, let us not lose the point of the speech in the awesomeness of its beauty. Dr. King knew the costs of pursuing the dream – he understood that his particular role would cost him everything. Nevertheless, he assumed and expected that others would set aside comfort, safety and privilege and join him in standing up and pressing on for a better day as well. As we listen yet again to this speech on its 50th anniversary, let those of us who dare recommit ourselves to the understanding that there is indeed a call to duty for any who would claim ownership of this dream and that this call to duty is nothing less than a Divine call. President John F. Kennedy ended his inaugural speech with a challenge clarifying the solemn and sacred nature of the call to preserve freedom: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.” My friends, let’s keep the dream alive by doing the good work – God’s work – loving Him and our neighbors that the reality of freedom might live on for years and years to come. Until next time… Sam

4 comments:

Andrew said...

Thank you, Sam. Very well said, indeed.

Andrew said...

Well said, Sam. Thanks for your good words.

alex ramos said...

16 minutes of knowledge that rocked the world. I recently watched 42. I love how the team owner tells Jack Robinson he needs a man " brave enough to turn the other cheek like our creator."
love the power to defeat even the most ignorant of conceptions and perceptions.
42 is a movie about a man who lived this dream. Jack Robinson proved to the world that the content of his character and his strength through Christ was more powerful than anything anyone perceived with their eyes.
(I mean except that Jackie was the authority in stealing home!)
thanks for a great read on great love, pastor.

- Balay

alex ramos said...

16 minutes of knowledge that rocked the world. I recently watched 42. I love how the team owner tells Jack Robinson he needs a man " brave enough to turn the other cheek like our creator."
love the power to defeat even the most ignorant of conceptions and perceptions.
42 is a movie about a man who lived this dream. Jack Robinson proved to the world that the content of his character and his strength through Christ was more powerful than anything anyone perceived with their eyes.
(I mean except that Jackie was the authority in stealing home!)
thanks for a great read on great love, pastor.

- Balay