Churches revive Dr King’s dream

30 August 2013

by a staff reporter


Oratory: President Obama speaks at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony. on the steps of Lincoln Cathedral, on Wednesday

Oratory: President Obama speaks at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony. on the steps of Lincoln Cathedral, on Wednesday

A COMMEMORATIVE march was held in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 50 years to the day since 250,000 people gathered in the same place to hear the Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr deliver his "I have a dream" speech ( Comment, 23 August). President Obama addressed the event, and churches acrossthe US rang bells at 3 p.m., marking the exact time when Dr King spoke.

Dr King's words were seen as instrumental in changing attitudes, and bringing about the Civil Rights Act in the United States, which outlawed racial segregation in schools, workplaces, and public places.

Mr Obama said: "Five decades ago today, Americans came to this honored place to lay claim to a promise made at our founding: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'. . .

"Across the land, congregations sent them off with food and with prayer. . . We rightly and best remember Dr King's soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions. . .

"But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV. . . In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in, with the moral force of nonviolence. . .

"The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history; that we are masters of our fate. But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together."

The Diocese of Washington reported that a group from the congregation of Washington National Cathedral was among the marchers, alongside signs that decried the current state of the nation's jobless, oppressed and ill-treated. "Justice for Trayvon Martin," "What do we want. . . JOBS, When do we want them. . . NOW!" were some of the signs in front of the Lincoln Memorial. 

Last Saturday, tens of thousands of people marched to the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washing­ton to mark the anniversary. The eldest son of the murdered civil-rights leader, Martin Luther King III, told the crowd: "This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration. Nor is this the time for self-con­gratulatory celebration. The task is not done. The journey is not com­plete. We can and we must do more." 

On Sunday, the Dean of Wash­ington National Cathedral, the Very Revd Gary Hall, pledged to take his congregation through a time of "self-examination, renewal, and reform". "How can we live into the dream articulated by Dr King, when the evils we face in 2013 are so much more insidious than they were in 1963? The enemy today looks and acts very much like you and me."

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, urged people to remember that it was the actions of one woman - Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger - which was one of the significant actions that set the movement rolling.

In an article in theYorkshire Poston Saturday, he wrote: "Too often, people believe that their own con­tribution is not important. I tell you, friends, one drop of water can turn a waterwheel. Always aim high, and never give up hope."

Events were also held in churches in Britain to mark the 50th anniversary of the speech. In St James in the City, Liverpool, the congregation listened to a recording of the speech, and were asked to share their own hopes and dreams.

The Vicar of St James's, the Revd Neil Short, said: "Fifty years on, Martin Luther King's speech is highly relevant. One of the biggest issues we face today is lack of hope. We need a dream. Without a dream, the people perish. We need bold leaders and bold dreams, and this service is about inspiring us all to think big, and to have, in the words of Martin Luther King, 'the audacity to believe'."

March on Washington from Episcopal Diocese of Washington on Vimeo.

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