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What Happened To Dr. King’s Dream?



Today we honor the memory of the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Did you know that the civil rights leader died without a will and that there was much litigation over his estate? Although this could be yet another example of how estate planning is so essential, we refrain from our usual estate planning themed blog to simply highlight a few significant portions of Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. Because while it may seem in some respects that the fight for civil rights took place in a different era, the latest stories about New York, Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, the evisceration of voting rights laws and other similar events reminds us that the dream is yet unfulfilled.

On a muggy August afternoon in 1963, Dr. King delivered his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was a message and a speech that reverberates even today. Some of our favorite sections are below.

“But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice….

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children….

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream….

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 the table of brotherhood….

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, 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!’”

You can read the full speech here: http://www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf . Despite the trials and tribulations buffeting us through the hurricane of change that the 21st century has wrought, we still believe in the dream.

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