(with thanks, appropriate credit, and all due apologies to Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.)
Two hundred forty years ago, our American forbearers dared to declare that “all…are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In the intervening years, we have struggled to live into their audacious vision of equality and value for all people. We have fought wars among ourselves—both declared and unnamed. We have passed and repealed laws both just and unjust. Well over a half-million American lives have been lost in this struggle. Two hundred forty years, and still men and women and children are killed because of the color of their skin. Two hundred forty years, and still men and women and children are victimized because of their religion, or their language, or their culture. Two hundred forty years, and we still don’t know how to live together.
It would be all too easy to dismiss our nation’s initial bold vision as reckless, gutsy-yet-empty political rhetoric. God knows we’ve had plenty of that of late. But the fact is that our forbearers appear to have been sincere in their declaration—and that generation after generation since has affirmed these freedoms to be a central component of our national identity. America, I believe, is facing an identity crisis. Pressured and beset upon by bullies both within and without, America has given up its greatest strength—the value and responsibility of freedom, entrusted to every person no matter their circumstance.
Tossed about by these blustery winds, the strong trunk of our nation is at risk. The broad branches which shelter and protect those on the margins have been pruned, our growth stunted. The mighty oak that is our once proud nation has been weakened, broken down, and consumed from the inside out.
But I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all…are created equal.”
I have a dream…that neighbors will one day be neighborly again, instead of escalating to aggression and violence at every conflict.
I have a dream…that individuals of all professions may be held to account for their unjust deeds.
I have a dream…that no one anywhere need fear using the bathroom in public.
I have a dream…that law enforcement officers will not have their already impossible job made even more impossible by the unjust actions of another, simply because they wear the same uniform.
I have a dream…that one day we learn to value plough shares more than swords.
I have a dream…that a day’s work will earn a livable wage.
I have a dream…that mothers will no longer have to teach their children how *not* to be shot.
I have a dream…that God’s name will no longer be taken in vain by being dragged into the muck of un-Christ-like politics and explanations of tragedies, instead praying only “Lord, have mercy.”
I have a dream…that employees need not fear being fired for illness or other personal setbacks, but will be seen as an investment rather than a mere commodity.
I have a dream…that one day those of all religions and no religion will not be judged on account of extremists hiding their hate behind a thin veneer of faith.
I have a dream…that we will find facts more compelling than emotions.
I have a dream…that medical bills and educational expenses will no longer hang as a death sentence over those foolish enough to get sick or try to advance themselves.
I have a dream…that my children will not fear their children’s future as I have so often done.
I have a dream…that one day we will see how peripheral things like skin color, faith, sexuality, language, gender identity, and culture fade in comparison to the giant universal reality of being created in God’s image.
I have a dream today… 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. This is our hope… With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brother/sisterhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
I have a dream today… the dream that “one day” will start today. That this day, in this place, at this time the dream that began more than 240 years ago might begin to be fulfilled. That we choose today to abandon the entrenched encampments we possess as foot-soldiers of the powers of darkness, that we drop our weapons of death, and that we stand up and step out in solidarity against those forces that imprison even the one who thinks he is free. I have a dream… I have a dream that all lives will matter enough to us to stand up for those whose lives don’t seem to matter as much. I have a dream… that when my days are over and my children surround me, they will know that today was the day everything changed, that today was the day their future—and the futures of those with a different skin color, a different faith, a different language, and different customs—all became a little brighter. Because today was the day we said “no” to hate and started saying “yes” to love.
I have a dream…