Historical Reflection: I Have A Dream And A National Holiday

On Monday, January 19 the USA celebrates a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It took many prolonged years of petitioning Congress as well as herculean patience to get it through both houses of Congress.

President Ronald Reagan signed it into law on November 2, 1983. Its official observance began on the third Monday of January, 1986. Only 27 states and the District of Columbia recognized the day.

It would take until the year 2000 for the last state ( South Carolina ) to officially recognize the day. It was a triumph to remember a movement and a man who gave so much to this nation of immigrants.

As a nation chooses its heroes and heroines, a nation interprets its history and shapes its destiny. The commemoration of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. can help America realize its true destiny as the global model for democracy, economic and social justice, and as the first nonviolent society in human history.” Mrs. Coretta Scott King

THE USA still has a long road to travel to reach the ideals of Dr. King. The tragic events of the recent months demonstrate that it takes all people working together to achieve social justice and nonviolence for all citizens.

August 28, 1963 (AP Photo/File)
August 28, 1963 (AP Photo/File)

2014 is over a half century since the man with a dream stood before a nation. Below are some quotes about Dr. King’s most famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

“The first official Freedom Train arrived at Washington’s Union station from Pittsburgh at 8.02am, records Charles Euchner in Nobody Turn Me Around.Within a couple of hours, thousands were pouring through the stations every five minutes, while almost two buses a minute rolled into DC from across the country. About 250,000 people showed up that day. The Washington Mall was awash with Hollywood celebrities, including Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr, Burt Lancaster, James Garner and Harry Belafonte. Marlon Brando wandered around brandishing an electric cattle prod, a symbol of police brutality. Josephine Baker made it over from France. Paul Newman mingled with the crowd.” THE GUARDIAN

“It was late in the day and hot, and after a long march and an afternoon of speeches about federal legislation, unemployment and racial and social justice, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. finally stepped to the lectern, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, to address the crowd of 250,000 gathered on the National Mall.” New York Times

“The speech is remembered principally for its stirring rhetoric, in particular its vision of a future in which King’s children would “not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” At its core, however, is a simple, radical and, most important, correct argument. King explains that the demonstrators have come “to cash a cheque.” America’s constitution and declaration of independence were “a promissory note …that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The demonstrators were asking merely for the rights guaranteed to all Americans by the country’s founding documents. Segregationists, therefore, were not just bullies and bigots; they were failures as Americans, because they misunderstood or ignored the country’s fundamental premise. King presented his dream, gloriously and specifically, as the American dream.” THE ECONOMIST

G. D. Williams © 2015

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I Have A Dream Speech






A Brief History of the Day