Nearly 50 years ago, a 34-year-old Baptist preacher stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and proclaimed before a crowd of thousands that in spite of the social and political ills that plagued the nation, he still had a dream. It was, he said, "a dream deeply rooted in the American dream" — a dream that found its basis in poetic words written in our country's Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal." For too long, these words had meant little to millions relegated to second-class citizenship based solely on the color of their skin. Born into the land of the free and the home of the brave, citizens of color found themselves "exiles in their own land," unable to take full advantage of the many opportunities guaranteed to those of us born in the United States of America. As we prepare to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we remember both the dreamer and the dream. Recognizing how far we've come, we remember how far we have yet to go.
We have come a long way, but I refuse to accept the notion that King's dream has come to full fruition. For millions who live in extreme poverty in the richest country on the face of the earth, King's dream is still just a dream. For those forced to find food in garbage dumps and beds in alleyways, King's dream is still just a dream. For students in our state forced to learn in buildings with holes in the ceilings and rat feces in the corners, King's dream is still just a dream. For my gay and lesbian friends who face discrimination at every turn but lack the legal protections provided to other minority groups, King's dream is still just a dream. For millions of female employees who work just as hard as their male coworkers but receive less pay and fewer promotions, King's dream is still just a dream. For religious minorities forced to pay for the actions of those who pervert their faith, King's dream is still just a dream. For those who realize that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," King's dream in many ways is still just a dream.
So, as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. King, we must continue to work to make his dream a reality for all who live in this country and in countries around the world, for "my destiny is tied up with your destiny," and "your freedom is inextricably bound to my freedom."