Today the Nation celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m going to skip extolling his historical importance; there are other people more adept at doing that. I also have no intention of providing an overview of the way he continues to contribute to the fabric of America. Again, I’ll leave that to the historians and political pundits.
In so doing, I’m going to trust you know the basics about Dr. King and do not need a refresher course, i.e., ‘Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For Dummies’. However, if, for some unbelievable reason, you need a clue for all things MLK, you need only Google or search Dr. King on YouTube. Trust me; you will find what you need to gain a basic understanding of many things Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I HAVE A DREAM
Instead of pretending to be a historian or playing a political commentator, I merely want to focus for the next eight minutes on four words from what is his most recognized speech – the iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. The four words I want us to spotlight are “I have a dream.”
As we reflect on those four famous words, I want to encourage you to ask and answer, “what is my dream.” Imagine if the Nation called on you to deliver a speech today, what dream would you share with the world?
After you spoke the first four words, “I have a dream,” what vision for the future would follow? What would you tell us about the ideas you have for your city, state, and country? What could we expect to hear about the hopes and dreams you hold for your children and loved ones?
ONE THOUSAND SIX-HUNDRED SIXTY-SEVEN AND EIGHT
Dr. King’s most recognized speech contained 1,667 words, but he only spoke the words, “I have a dream” eight times. In essence, thirty-two words (that’s four words spoken eight times for the math-challenged among us) carry more weight than the other 1,635 words.
Four words voiced eight times turned what would have most likely been just one more speech in a long list of excellent lectures into one of the seminal speeches in World history. Four words spoken eight times challenged a Nation to take a good look at ourselves and ask and answer, “Is this the best we can be” and “Is who we are today who want to be tomorrow?”
PUT PEN TO PAPER
I’m sure you aren’t going to be surprised to find out that I believe a great way to celebrate the life of Dr. King today is to write your own “I Have A Dream” speech. Why do you need to write your own “I Have A Dream” speech you might ask when Dr. King has written such a superb one already? Simple because Dr. King’s dream is just that–Dr. King’s dream. Additionally, I believe it is time we acknowledge the need to ask and answer individually, “Is this the best I can be” and “Am I today whom I want to be tomorrow?”
Dr. King is not the only one given the ability to assess who we are or dream of a brighter day. We all possess the capacity for self-assessment and the power of imagination. Dr. King should not bear the burden of universal moral appraisal, nor should his vision be the enduring unequivocal dream for a life that is better than the one lived currently. You and I should self-correct and envision something great also.
Now relax! There is no need to get flustered as this is not a request for you to stand up outside of a National monument railing against racial, gender, or economic oppression. Nor is this a plea for you to lead the fight for human dignity and climate change. Although, if inclined to stand up and fight, please feel free to do so and do so by any means necessary.
Notwithstanding the need for more of us to take on additional responsibility about the condition of our local and global communities, at this moment, I merely wish that you would take as few as fifteen minutes to put pen to paper and write down the dreams you have for your life, for the life of those you love, for your city, for your state, for your nation, and your planet.
FOUR THINGS FROM FOUR WORDS
The story goes that the “I Have A Dream” speech almost didn’t happen. Legend has it that Mahaila Jackson, the late great gospel singer, implored Dr. King during his speech by saying, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” Dr. King ad-libs the remainder of the address with the words “I have a dream,” and the rest, as they say, is history.
While I’m certainly not Mahalia Jackson, perhaps I can encourage you similarly. Maybe it’s time that someone reminded you that your dreams matter. And in the spirit of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, now is the time to prompt you to tell us about your dream.
It’s time for you to prepare your own “I Have A Dream” speech and you can do so by adhering to Dr. King’s direction and doing the following four things:
- Dream of something bigger than yourself. Dr. King’s goal is not about himself. He did not dream of personal fame, material possessions or financial fortune. Instead, he dreamt of a world where all people enjoyed the declaration of this great nation – recognition of being created equal and endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What do you dream about that is greater than yourself?
- Imagine an extraordinary life for your children and all children. Dr. King was not self-absorbed, wishing for the best for his children exclusively. Dr. King dreamt of a nation where children all children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character and where children of different racial backgrounds could join hands. What do you dream of doing that could improve life for all children, not just yours?
- Use emotive imagery. Dr. King’s dream was vivid and evoked great emotion. He didn’t just speak of any hill; he spoke of red hills in Georgia. He didn’t just talk about ‘heat’ but sweltering heat of injustice in Mississippi. What emotive images can you add, or do you have about your dream life that could encourage you to make your dreams a reality?
- Be open to ad-lib. The words “I have a dream” were not supposed to be in the speech, but the prompting of a wonderful friend helped make a good speech great. Maybe today is the day to take an assessment of your friends to determine if they can prompt you to be better, to do more, to do something legendary. Perhaps now is the time to ad-lib from the life you are living to the life you dream of living.
How you choose to observe the Dr. King Holiday is up to you? You can do nothing lounging around enjoying the last day of a three day weekend, or you can volunteer in some capacity to improve your community. Of course, I hope that you will, at the very least, put your vision on paper. Maybe even bring your dream life alive using a vision board.
No matter what you decide to do today, do yourself, those you love, and this Nation a favor. Have a dream. And live every day of your life relentlessly pursuing your dream as if your dream matters because, without question, it does.
Dreams lift us up! Dreams propel people, communities, and nations forward. We are all but empty vessels lost at sea without dreams.
So I’ll say it once more in case you haven’t been paying attention, Dr. King should not and must not be the only person who has a dream worth remembering. We all know Dr. King’s dream. What’s yours?
Previously Published on The RS Project
Image Public Domain