‘I Have a Dream’

On August 28th, Governor Herbert and I stood with the Martin Luther King Commission before our State Capitol to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. King’s masterpiece has become a political classic, couched in soaring oratory, boldly challenging racism in white America, yet clothed in his counsel of non-violence. His speech seared America’s conscience. He called on us to honor the “check” for equal rights, which had been given to black citizens long ago and again and then again. The country had not honored that check; the debt remained unpaid.  


In June, 1963, a KKK member murdered Medgar Evers, an NAACP field agent in Mississippi.  In the South, blacks were barred from the vote, lacked jobs, had inferior schools. They faced legal and de facto segregation. Discrimination abounded in the rest of the country as well. In the 1950s little African-American children had to be escorted to newly-integrated schools by the military. Rather than de-segregate, Little Rock and other school districts dissolved their school systems. Federal marshals had to escort, James Meredith, the first black to attend ‘Ole Miss.

What is it like to constantly face hatred and cruel, demeaning racial prejudice; to be denied your civil rights vouchsafed by the Civil War and guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution; to fear lynching and violence from the KKK, and even antipathy from governors, sheriffs and police—those elected and sworn to protect you and guarantee your rights; endure the epithets, especially thrown at your children; watch your tired mother give up her seat on the bus at the whim of a jeering white teenager; and to be denied a quality education, buying a home and getting a good job?

We needed to hear Dr. King say the blacks must be allowed to “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”  It was time to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”  

Dr. King wisely counseled his own people, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.  We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.  . . .we must not allow . . . physical violence . . .must not distrust all white people.”

Dr. King’s remarkable speech and remarkable life brought a new era, new laws, a new commitment. A martyr to the cause, he became our country’s racial conscience. He moved this great country far along the path of ‘not judg[ing] people by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Much of black America has yet to enjoy the fruits of the American dream. Dr. King said, “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” I add my prayer that there will be much opportunity left in those great vaults available to the upcoming generations of black children, and that they will claim their rightful share of that opportunity.