2019年8月31日 星期六

Race/Related: Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ Speech

His Son Reflects on How Far We Have Come

Wednesday was the 56th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech delivered to nearly a quarter-million people on the National Mall in Washington.

"I have a dream," he declared, "my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"

I reached one of those children, Martin Luther King III, on Wednesday morning and he told me that his father's speech had been years in the making. Mr. King said that his father had had delivered elements of the speech on other occasions.

Though he has listened to the speech thousands of times, he said, it moves him to tears whenever he listens to it. During our conversation, Mr. King told me that the country still has much work to do in making the "dream" a reality.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech from the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.Corbis/Bettmann

Q. and A. With Martin Luther King III

The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What do you remember most about your father?

I remember quite a few things because I was 10 years old when my father was killed. What I do not remember, unfortunately, is when he delivered this incredible message for our nation and world. I do remember having the opportunity to travel with Dad and see him in the context of his work. And, interestingly enough, he did several iterations of "I Have a Dream" before delivering the version he gave on Aug. 28 in 1963.


I had the opportunity with my brother to travel with my father probably seven or eight times. The last experience was in 1967, just a few months before he was killed. I believe it was October or November, and he was mobilizing for the Poor People's Campaign, which was supposed to be an event to bring together poor blacks, poor whites, poor Native Americans, poor Latino and Hispanic Americans, Americans from all walks of life, to say to our policymakers in Washington that we demand the right to decent jobs and decent pay.

How far, or close, are we to achieving your father's dream?

This vision that he engaged in and talked about, elements of it have become true. But the hope is that we'd be much further as a nation. I think we're going through a metamorphosis. And what I mean by that is all of the ill, or all of the negative, has to come out for the positive to emerge because there's no way that we can go back to the past.

We thought, for example, racism was resolved. We thought civil rights was resolved — certainly 10, 12 years ago. We did, especially when President Obama was elected. I didn't feel that we were in a postracial society because I knew racism was still very much with us, but we certainly thought we'd come further. So to get to a point where it now feels like we're going back to the 1950s is somewhat of concern.

But the only way you can address these issues, truly, is you have to know they exist. And so at least now we know they exist. So the real question is: How do we bring people together?

Hundreds of thousands of people who gathered in Washington in 1963 heard Dr. King talk about his dream of peace and justice.Associated Press

Who in your view is carrying your father's mantle?

I don't think that it's a single person as much as it's a coalition of organizations. I really think that it has to be done by some millennials, some even maybe younger. I think we see it through the Parkland students; they are carrying that mantle. I think we see it through some of the progressive organizations.

But you've got to have progressive organizations who are willing to work with conservative organizations. So it's not about what your leaning is. It's about finding common ground even if there's one issue. Let's work on that.

We need what Dad called a revolution of values. Dad happened to be a Christian minister and he was able to use what his interpretation of Christianity was, but I think it's so broad now that we've got to find a language that is universal. Now oftentimes he spoke in universal tones and that's why I think people embraced him. He was able to speak in tones that everyone could understand. And that's the kind of voices that we need to hear more today.


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