King's wondrous words still unfulfilled

Published August 29, 2013

Editorial by Winston-Salem Journal, August 27, 2013.

President Kennedy, no slouch at speeches himself, recognized a good one when he heard it. Watching on TV as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech on Aug. 28, 1963, the president told an aide, “He’s damn good, isn’t he?”

Three months later, the white president would be gunned down in Dallas. Less than five years later, the black prophet was gunned down in Memphis.

By the time of King’s death, the legal framework of segregation was being torn asunder. In effectively inspiring an ocean of peaceful and courageous followers, King played a leading role in this nation’s history, just as surely as Washington and Lincoln did.

But 50 years after King preached his heart out on racial equality, with the first black president in the White House, our country still roils with racial tension. Perhaps that’s because many of us can’t seem to realize that we share big problems that we should face together.

Draconian new election laws, North Carolina’s being among the most severe, don’t just threaten the voting rights of black Americans. They threaten the voting rights of all Americans living in those states, from college students to working people to senior citizens of modest means.

Violence threatens us all. We need to honestly confront white-on-black crime as much as we need to honestly confront black-on-black crime and all crime. Following King’s example, we all should be concerned with the ease with which America enters overseas wars, especially with the carnage in Syria and Egypt growing.

And, following King’s example of speaking out for the poor, we should come together on strategies to create good-paying jobs for all.

These days, politicians of all stripes publicly embrace King. But if King walked this earth today, many of those same politicians would vilify him as a radical.

That he was, in the best Christian tradition of standing up for peace and the underdog.

But in the deeply divided America of today, perhaps what some would find most radical about King would be his willingness to love his enemies, to try to find ways to change their hearts and move forward t with them. It’s a lost message that we’d do well to recov-er.

As King said in his speech, 1963 was “not an end, but a beginning.”

August 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm
dj anderson says:

Ironic isn't it? Even as Nobel Peace prize winner Barack Obama yesterday stood in MLK's footprints he had been planning & threatening bombings in Syria, he stood to honor another Nobel Peace Prize Winner, MLKing, Jr, who opposed such war-doings as was in Vietnam.

The world must be a crazy place when the most honored peace maker today is also the most war making, drone killing war maker today, and he talks and plans attacks as he honors a fallen Nobel Peace Prize hero of non-violence.

If Martin Luther King were to rise up to life in his stone statue, I wonder what he would say to Obama? He didn't die so Obama could become president to do this attack on Syria.

MLK's Dream speech 50th should dampen the spirit of fighting. Bombing Syria takes little courage and little risk of dying that day on our side, but it is, or should be, the topic of this day. Obama erred by drawing a line on use of gas for that line was a line on him, not them, and we should all be urging our president not to compound his first, verbal error by letting it make him make second error via a life & death decision that isn't at all clear or legal (without the UN).

We all want to do something, including Obama, but let's take him off his own hook and demand we stay out of it without UN decision, and then we should still consider.