It’s almost 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his ‘I have a dream” speech in Washington (28 August 1963). Since it’s MLK day in the United States and the Inauguration ceremony for President Obama, I thought I’d ruminate on that speech today.
You can find the speech here.
For me, the key components of the speech is its hope and its dreams.
By hope, I mean hope in the sense that Henri Nouwen describes it:
“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things-the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on-will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom.”
By dreams, I mean in the sense of prophetic imagination that Walter Bruegemann describes:
“I understand imagination to be the capacity to host a reality or a world other than the one that is in front of us.”
And in looking at these definitions, I find myself wondering where we can find hope and dreams today.
- Has social justice been sidelined in favour of social mobility?
- Has the desire for economic prosperity replaced our interest in poverty – economic, cultural and spiritual?
- Has comfort and complacency trumped our capacity to see reality and dream of changing it?
As I’ve listened to MLK’s speech a few times in recent days, one phrase keeps jumping out at me.
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.
It’s too easy to equate the speech solely with the civil rights movement as it related to the oppression of black people in the southern states. But MLK’s dream was wider in its remit.
How wide will President Obama cast his vision today?
How wide will your vision be today?