"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream . . . ."
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963
He was reading his prepared text, which he had been working on and had finished just before dawn. He had invoked the words of Lincoln, whose likeness was sitting behind him, thinking of all the trials and tribulations he and many had faced, speaking here, 13 years after Emmett Till was kidnapped and murdered on the same day as this speech August 28, eight years after Medgar Evers was arrested for refusing to give up her seat, just a couple of months after Medgar Evers was murdered, and three months after police in Birmingham, Ala., horrified the nation by using attack dogs and fire hoses against women and children protesting segregated public facilities.
He was thinking of all that had come before him, then suddenly became overwhelmed, looking at more than a quarter of a million people of diverse ethnicities in front of him that day, looking to him for an answer, singing songs of peace, holding hands, black hands joining white hands, and he stopped at that point. He could not go on. Some say he heard Mahalia Jackson encouraging him onward, saying, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!"
Others say, he never heard Mahalia, he heard another voice, deep within his soul. Dr. King himself could not remember what overcame him, but he at that pointed, departed from his prepared speech, a speech which originally never contained the words "I have a dream." The rest is history.
On that day, August 28, 1963, fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at that moment in time, saw the past, saw the present, and saw the future. He knew it would not be easy, saying himself, "we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow." Three months later, John F. Kennedy was dead. A month later, four girls were killed in the Birmingham church bombing. The following year, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were killed. Dr. King himself was assassinated in 1968.
But, his words, still ring clear, even today - "I have a dream," 50 years after he first uttered those words, "I have a dream" echoing years later after a young man is killed after he is judged not because of the content of his character, but because of the color of his skin, "I have a dream"...even after the Supreme Court gutted what Dr. King and many others fought for and sacrificed their lives - the Voting Rights Act. "I have a dream"... even when many deny racism still exists, just as 50 years ago many denied racism was a problem.
As Dr. King stated 50 years ago, "I say to you today my friends, 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. It is 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 some 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 ...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. I have a dream today!"
"I have a dream," the same dream many of us have today, the same dream we still wish for our children, the same dream that, despite the difficulties, despite pain, the suffering, the many sacrifices, the same dream... that still gives us hope....