This special tribute on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 20, 2014, was delivered at Lord Fairfax Community College by Dr. Miles Davis, Dean of the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business in Winchester, VA.
We have all heard the classic reframe delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech at the March on Washington on August 28th, 1963: “I have a dream.”
However, this remembrance does a disservice to the speech, to the man who gave it, and ultimately to you.
In a speech that contained 1667 words, it is only after the 1052nd word that we come to Dr. King’s dream. However, it is the first two-thirds of the speech that guided Dr. King’s life and offers us a blueprint to be more than a dreamer. I will not reread the speech to you. That is your homework assignment. What I will do is analyze the speech and discuss its implications for your life.
The first thing Dr. King does is to look at the issues within a historical context and then evaluate his present situation. And he does not like what he sees!
But he does not fall into despair, even as his analysis shows that things are desperate. He moves from that analysis to an action plan. He refused to accept that just because things were the way they were, they had to stay that way. And he proclaimed that procrastination, and the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” were not acceptable for the changes that needed to be made. The “urgency of the moment” had to be seized and forward momentum had to be pursued.
Now, here is where we see the real greatness of Dr. King; for even though the situation was desperate, and it was imperative for things to change, he advocated against doing “wrongful deeds” in order to correct a wrongful situation. “Dignity and discipline” were to be maintained to overcome the challenges being faced.
Dr. King also knew that allies were needed in the struggle to move forward and that “we cannot walk alone.”
Furthermore, he put on notice those who said we should be “satisfied” with small gains, while there is a larger struggle ahead. The speech was used to send folks back to fight injustice and change the systems where they came from.
All this, before one mention of a “dream!”
Our dreams remain just dreams in the absence of reflection, analysis and an action plan to birth our dreams into reality.
On this day, I encourage you to not just dream. Let me be clear; dreams are OK. I dreamed of escaping the spirit-crushing poverty and deprivation that was my childhood. I dreamed of living a better life where I did not look out the front window of my mother’s house and see drug transactions; and young girls negotiating the sale of sexual favors for a hit on a crack pipe. I dreamed of being more than a number in a newspaper that counted who died in the streets of Philadelphia that year.
But my dreams, “rooted in the American dream,” were followed by decisions that had to be taken and an education that was pursued. An education that was transformative. And along with the educational pursuit, I chose to align myself with the values of my parents, my grandparents and other family and friends who made it clear that it does not matter if you gain the world if you lose your soul. I had allies in making my dreams come true. So do you!
Go forth and have your dreams! But, follow your dreams up with actions. Your being here today, enrolled in LFCC shows you are more than dreamers. Continue to take the steps necessary to be more than a dreamer.
Give birth to the reality you want!