Thursday, April 13, 2006

Inspirational speech by Martin Luther King, Jr

"I Have a Dream" I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history asthe greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadowwe stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentousdecree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaveswho had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as ajoyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred yearslater, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles ofsegregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, theNegro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean ofmaterial prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishedin the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his ownland. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. Whenthe architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of theConstitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing apromissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was apromise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would beguaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit ofhappiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory noteinsofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring thissacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, acheck that has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. Werefuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults ofopportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a checkthat will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierceurgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or totake the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real thepromises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark anddesolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is thetime to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solidrock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all ofGod's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not passuntil there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteensixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negroneeded to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rudeawakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neitherrest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenshiprights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations ofour nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on thewarm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process ofgaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let usnot seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup ofbitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the highplane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest todegenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to themajestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelousnew militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us toa distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidencedby their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tiedup with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom isinextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall alwaysmarch ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking thedevotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never besatisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors ofpolice brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavywith the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highwaysand the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro'sbasic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never besatisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbedof their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied aslong as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New Yorkbelieves he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied andwe will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters andrighteousness like a mighty stream. I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of greattrials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left youbattered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of policebrutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue towork with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to SouthCarolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slumsand ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation canand will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today myfriends - so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, Istill have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out thetrue meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that allmen are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons offormer slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit downtogether at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a statesweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression,will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nationwhere they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the contentof their character. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists,with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interpositionand nullification - one day right there in Alabama little black boys andblack girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls assisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and everyhill 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 Lordshall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with.With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair astone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the janglingdiscords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With thisfaith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggletogether, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowingthat we will be free one day. This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children willbe able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land ofliberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim'spride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!" And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And solet freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Letfreedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ringfrom the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Letfreedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi - fromevery mountainside. Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allowfreedom 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 whenall 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 wordsof the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty,we are free at last!"

Martin Luther King, Jr

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