Martin Luther King Memorial

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. for all time

 by Sam Johnson

      "I HAVE A DREAM that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

---Martin Luther King, Jr. 

     On August 28th, 1963 an estimated crowd of over 250,000 people marched peacefully on Washington D.C. in support of civil and economic rights for African Americans.
    Organized by a coalition of labor, civil rights, and religious leaders and organizations, the rally featured a number of speeches by well-known celebrities and lesser-known political and religious leaders.
    But the highlight of the event is without question the short, but powerful “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
    Dr. King’s famous (and now historic} speech about his dream of racial harmony, truly moved a nation. “The Great March on Washington” capped off by King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is widely credited with helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and paving the way for other civil and human rights advancements for all Americans.
    This August 28th another crowd will descend on Washington D.C. to visit the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial,” and pay tribute to the man who did so much for human rights in America, as well as influencing human rights issues with leaders around the world.

MLK Links & Resources

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    The 30-foot granite statue and memorial of the Reverend Dr. King, has him overlooking the Tidal Basin on the National Mall near the Jefferson Memorial, and not far from the spot where his “I Have A Dream” speech was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial. 
    This week, a host of special events will take place at the King Memorial, laying out the legacy of the man and his dream.
    And what a legacy it is!
    King was a great moral leader whose dream of racial equality and justice for all was a powerful dream, and an optimistic one.
    King's dream is a dream filled with hope and possibility; the hope of world peace and freedom for all, and the possibility of universal brotherhood.
    Martin Luther King, Jr. had a great impact on many people and was the cause of tremendous social changes in America.
    He was an eloquent and emotional speaker who was able to move people by making the words we take for granted ring out with new clarity, truth, and sincerity...
    "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that ALL men are created equal…."
    King was a motivator, a leader who used his gifts as a preacher to motivate people to take positive, nonviolent action.
    He preached social and political activism, but emphasized that such activism should not be violent. It was a philosophy that did not sit well with other black activists who felt his nonviolent methods were too weak to effect any change
    However, King's nonviolent efforts as "a drum major for righteousness" led to many reforms and advancements in civil rights and human rights, not as they pertained just to blacks, but as they pertained to all people of all races.
    King was also active in the war on poverty and in opposition to the Vietnam war, and his influence was felt in every reform movement of the 1960's and 1970's from women's rights to the environment.
    But King was more than a nonviolent activist who championed civil rights and other social causes. He was also the eternal optimist who sincerely believed that the basic goodness of man would some day "make the ideal of brotherhood a reality in this nation and all over the world."
    In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize he received in 1964 King said:

    "I accept this award with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind...I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up...I still believe that we shall overcome."

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great teacher who taught us many things -- that people can and do make a difference, that WE are responsible for ourselves AND each other, that change can take place if actively though NOT violently pursued – AND, that WE can make dreams come true if we put forth the unyielding effort required!

(Editor’s note: Sam was the 1996 recipient of the North Dakota "Martin Luther King, Jr. Educator of the Year" award. He teaches Humanities, Communication, and Integrated Studies course at the University of North Dakota and is an associate professor of English and Humanities at Lake Region State College.