Following the dream ... today and the day after

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Brye McMillon
  • Air University command chief
The time has come once again to celebrate the vision and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During the month of January, we gather to remember what once seemed "a voice crying in the wilderness." How could America of that time transition to America of the dream? Was Dr. King a man born before his time? Was the dream really possible, or was it simply a nightmare?

The answer to these questions lays in each person's connection to the dream. The dream was one man's vision and vocalization of what America could be. This idea of potential challenged the thoughts and philosophies of people throughout the world. To some it was a challenge to their power base - eroding their status and reducing their wealth. The dream to others was an answer to prayer - lifting up the heads of the depressed and raising the spirits of the destitute. Yet to others, it was simply a dream that provided neither hope nor threat. It was only a dream!

Dr. King was born in a time where America needed a leader who could raise the mirror of its culture to illuminate its social ills. His message was not a new one, but was grounded in the beliefs of the founding fathers. The aspects of his dream point to an idea resident in the Declaration of Independence ... "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal." The dream points to the idea that humanity would embrace and celebrate their differences, the idea that freedom and justice would have the same meaning for all and the idea that stereotypes based on color would be replaced by judgment based on character. He was not looking for an advantage; he was seeking equality.

The capstone of his dream was rooted in one section of this great speech. "I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." Dr. King, a man of great faith and intelligence, believed that for equality to be achieved and maintained, barriers must be removed allowing unhindered access to all who seek its presence. In his own words, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The dream was rooted in the idea that equality was not just for the here and now, but for eternity.

By the time Dr. King gave the now legendary "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, the tides of change were already upon us. But his speech galvanized the efforts of a nation by allowing it to visualize the benefits of a promising future. Because of this dream, for the first time true opportunity was poised to knock at the door of all who would answer.

Although the speech is seen as one of the greatest moments in Dr. King's life, the trials and tribulations he encountered leading up to that day are the real gems. The nonviolent movement, the willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others, dog attacks, fire hoses and defamation of character built the platform from which this speech was given. Long before a word was uttered, the truth was seen. Then the dreamer awakened.