I was just four months old when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech. The third of my parents’ four children, I well remember the housing project where we lived before my parents moved steadily into home ownership and the suburbs. I am sure their dreams for my brothers and me resembled Dr. King’s dreams for his children. And I stand here grateful to all of them for enabling me to live the dream today, hardly ever worried about being judged by my skin color; going to restaurants anywhere I want; voting like every body else; working in a position of influence far from anybody’s kitchen.
I am grateful for affirmative action, which led me to the Ivy league where I met my husband. Joe grew up on a dirt road and his dad had a sixth grade education. Yet his parents, like mine, understood that education was the key to success and opportunity. Now Joe helps to lead the prestigious boarding school he attended, the place we’ve been privileged to raise our own children. They too have been educated at private schools; shaken hands with people in high places; influenced communities and peers; navigated interracial dating without fear of being lynched. Dr. King’s dream has come true for us and we are blessed.
And yet I am beckoned to step into the shoes of my forebears to help fulfill this line from Dr. King’s speech:we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. It’s not enough for me to enjoy the privileges of America’s progress as long as others struggle. Whether that is due to lack of ambition or systemic problems is irrelevant. What matters is that we all stand willing to use our position to lift others up like Jesus did. To the poor and the sinners and the rejected, he poured out unconditional love and showed them the path of life. I’m still trying to figure out what that means for me now, where I live, where I work, and to whom God has sent me.
One thing I do know: my precious grandson is a diaper-clad 4-month old like I was 51 years ago.
I am grateful Luke was born in America to parents who have dreams for him. And in spite of the speeches being delivered now that justifiably address our nation’s ongoing need for healing, I have hope for his future.
Join me in believing Dr. King’s words and taking the baton of his incredible mission “to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. 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.This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”