He had a dream.
Fifty years ago this week, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders brought 250,000 people to the nation’s capital in the March on Washington, a rally for jobs and freedom.
At the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered one of the most important speeches in U.S. history, one that will be marked on Wednesday by the nation’s first African-American president.
“I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
An advocate for nonviolence, King eloquently urged equality and justice for all Americans as he gave passionate voice to the civil rights movement.
“It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
It was time, King said, that the nation extend to all citizens, regardless of the color of their skin, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To give all citizens the opportunity to fully participate in America’s promise.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ ”
Many historians consider that Aug. 28, 1963, speech a watershed moment, paving the way for sweeping changes in American society. The march and King’s speech helped persuade Congress to subsequently approve the civil rights, voting rights and fair housing laws of the mid- and late-1960s.
While the nation has seen considerable progress toward expanded opportunities and racial equality over the ensuing decades, it continues to face challenges in making King’s dream a reality for all.
“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.”
The words were said 50 years ago, but all Americans can still find inspiration in them today.