I was not alive in 1963 when a quarter of a million people gathered for the Great March on Washington, and I cannot remember the first time I saw the video and heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voice resounding: “I have a dream.” It was such an important part of the world in which I grew up that I could hardly imagine a time when those words were not well known.
Having grown up in South Carolina, I knew first-hand the red-clay soil about which Dr. King spoke when he said, “I have a dream that one 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.”
When I went to Washington, DC, as a young adult, I journeyed to the Lincoln Memorial and looked out on the National Mall from the spot where Dr. King made his speech.
I decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree in social ethics at Boston University in part because that was where Dr. King studied, and I studied with the Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Social Ethics. I learned more of the theological and philosophical underpinnings of King’s nonviolent social action designed to bring the Beloved Community.
I remember the first time I visited the space that was his former dormitory room on campus; I found myself taking a deep breath from the solemnity of the experience for me. I spent time in the King Reading Room in the university’s library, and I attended the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Event and joined in the loud chorus singing, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Today, I cannot claim to know the feelings of those who attended the March on Washington, but I do have a sense of the powerful depth of that moment and the important changes it helped bring to our country. So, I celebrate this day as one whose life has been dramatically improved by the Civil Rights Movement. And, I join my prayers with those who ask God’s guidance and direction as, together, we seek to make the dream a reality.