Across the United States today, banks are closed and businesses idled as Americans observe the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., who 50 years ago shared his dream — and hope — for a nation divided by inequality.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. … 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.”
And this morning, not far from where the Reverend King stood half a century ago, a crowd gathered once again — this time, to watch President Barack Obama be sworn in for a second term.
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. … For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. … We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”
I found it wonderful that President Obama so skillfully wove into his dreams those of the man who paved his way. But I also found it profoundly sad that, 50 years later, we’re still striving for true equality, opportunity, and hope.
So, why are we still striving, when segregation and ignorance are no longer to blame? I think it’s because now we’re struggling against our very nature, against the shadow side of our humanity. We’re fighting against greed and competition, against the belief that others are somehow different — and thus, inferior.
Like President Obama and the Reverend King before him, I too have a dream. I dream that we will become a wiser nation. A nation built on compassion, on the realization that we all grow stronger when we help the weakest among us. A nation built on mutually beneficial cooperation, not ruthless competition. A nation that values individual rights — but also responsibility. A nation that responds with aggression only as a last resort. And a nation that is united in a call to collective action.
That all men truly are equal. That is my dream.