25 years ago next Wednesday – I traveled down to Washington DC for the Silver anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Following in the steps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” The Reverend Jesse Jackson stood before the Lincoln Memorial crowd of 250 thousand people. On that day he gave a speech he’d delivered before, but whose power was undiminished as he painted a vivid picture of Americans of African descent rising from “the outhouse to the statehouse to the White House.” “It’s morning time!” he roared. Jackson himself would never make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - running unsuccessfully for President in 1984 and 1988.
Today people from all over the country will gather in Washington DC for a day of commemoration of the March on Washington. But it will be Wednesday August 28th 2013 when Barack Obama will stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the actual anniversary date of the March - that the full resonance of Jackson’s words will see its living fulfillment as the nation’s first African American President stands in front of that iconic building.
Dr. King’s “Dream” Speech is one of America’s the greatest oratories. Unimaginable progress has been achieved in this nation since that speech and yet the fierce urgency of Dr. King’s words remains. With the Supreme court ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act, the breakdown in public education widening the income gap and with regular sharp reminders that we have yet to enter a “Post racial” society - Dr. King's impatient words resonate, “…we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
We don’t know the words President Obama will speak next week. He has also delivered some of America’s best and most memorable speeches. We will be watching and listening. Many of us will have a split screen running in our minds comparing past with present as the President speaks - remembering the indelible ending of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream Speech.”
“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 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.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with 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!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
To hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” in it’s entirely Click Here.
By the way when I said I would tell you how old I was on the day of the March on Washington – I fibbed. ;) Hey – age is just a number – right? Check here for the latest Clear Channel Community Outreach and follow me on Twitter @loraineballard