On a winter day early in 1968, Mrs. Weiland, my 2nd grade teacher, showed us the landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, which had been given just a few years before in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
In my mind, it is grainy and black and white, which is maybe because that is the footage we can still see. And our educators were explaining the civil rights movement and what it would mean to end racism, a concept hard to understand in our very integrated school. We were in an incubator, we all got along and treated each other respectfully – why couldn’t everyone else just see?
I was too young and naive to understand the brokenness of our nation and outrageous struggle being waged to right so many years of wrongs.
But I knew Martin Luther King’s speech moved me. It was strong, I could see it. I could visualize his dream coming to pass.
Just a couple months later, he was gunned down. My heart hurt. I poured over srticles and pictures in the Des Moines Register and the Tribune. The school flag was flown at half-mast the next day and after we said the pledge that morning, at Wallace Elementary, we observed a moment of silence. It felt, to my little second-grade mind, like it should go on and on.
In part he said:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four 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.
I have a dream today.
Today is the observance of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. The dream lives on.