Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of approximately 20,000 people who had peacefully marched on Washington toward the end of August 1963. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King managed to educate the people listening regarding the various ways in which they’d been kept oppressed by unjust laws while encouraging racial harmony. This speech is still important more than 40 years later because issues of unjust laws and racial tensions continue to exist.
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In his speech, King made it clear that the laws outlined in the Constitution are supposed to apply to black people as well as white people. “In 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.” As he outlined the ways that laws were enacted against black people, he made it clear that these rights were not being respected.
At the same time, he was reminding Americans of their Constitutional rights, he managed to inspire others to move forward in attempting to find ways of bringing blacks and whites together in a world where color does not serve as a limiting factor in the relationship.
As he listed the images of the ‘dream’ from which the speech takes its title, King told his audience, “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’ … I 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 character.”
Although King’s speech is now part of history, his dreams for the future have come much closer to fruition than he perhaps thought could be possible yet haven’t come quite far enough. Unfortunately, there remains much left to be done. Statistics have indicated that black students drop out of school at much higher rates than white students and prison populations are also more black than white. Racial profiling remains an issue within enforcement circles and black people are found more often than white people working in menial, labor-intensive, and low-income jobs rather than high-level careers (“Hindsight and Foresight”, 2001).
Martin Luther King Jr. managed to wake up a nation regarding the unfair and un-Constitutional treatment of blacks in the South with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but the messages he was sending have yet to be fully received. Although he was successful in arguing that black people deserved the same rights as white people and in encouraging blacks and whites to work together, there remain many problems between the races and within the justice system today.
“Hindsight and Foresight.” (Editorial). Fort Worth Star-Telegram. (2001).
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