Our kids go to a school that is all about civil and social
justice. Today is the day that
our country celebrates Martin Luther King, the man.
There are many events and conversations around this day at our kids
schools for weeks in advance. Always has been and
Josh was talking about the speech this week and told me his
favorite part was when he talks about the check marked insufficient funds.
My nieces go to a similar type of school in Los
Angeles. My youngest niece, from
what I have been told, has been taken with all that she has learned about
MLK, she is at the perfect age where she is beginning to really take in bigger picture knowledge.
She asked my brother how he died.
He told her that he was shot.
She wanted to know if it was a black man or a white man. My brother told her what we all know to
be true that it was a white man.
She looked up at him and said with tears in her eyes, “I can hear his
words in my head but I feel him in my heart”. This story was told to my by my Mom so it might not be exact
but it certainly brought tears to my eyes. Pretty amazing for an 8 year old.
So today I went back and read the speech.
Pretty unbelievable considering how far we have come but at the same
time how far we have to go.
am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest
demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today,
signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great
beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the
flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long
night of their captivity.
one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later,
the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation
and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a
lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of
American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come
here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects
of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the
Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every
American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men
as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of
"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today
that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of
color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has
given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked
we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe
that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this
nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon
demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of
Now. 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.
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.
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.
marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us
to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced
by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied
up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is
inextricably bound to our freedom.
cannot walk alone.
as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
cannot turn back.
are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be
satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim
of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as
long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in
the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied
as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their
self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites
Only." 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."¹
am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and
tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of
you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you
battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police
brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work
with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi,
go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to
Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing
that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a
dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
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."
have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former
slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at
the table of brotherhood.
have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering
with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be
transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
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
have a dream today!
have a dream that one day, down
in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips
dripping with the words of "interposition" and
"nullification" — one day right there in Alabama little black boys
and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white
girls as sisters and brothers.
have a dream today!
have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and
mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the
crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be
revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of
hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of
our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will
be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail
together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one
this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God's children will be
able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of
liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the
From every mountainside, let freedom
if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains
of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening
Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped
Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous
slopes of California.
not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of
Let freedom ring from every hill and
molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every
village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to
speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men,
Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and
sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3