Like many national holidays, it can be easy to overlook both the significance of the occasion and the sacrifices that came with it. For this reason, it has become my annual practice to read Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which he delivered in August of 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
You may remember the circumstances. Civil Rights activists had organized the March on Washington to call attention to the economic and social plight of African Americans and to support President Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act, being debated in Congress at that time. The March, by many estimates, included as many as 250,000 people. The day was hot. The Mall was packed. The audience was listless. Then, Dr. King, the last in the series of speakers, stood and delivered one of the greatest speeches in American history. I have read it and watched it scores of times. His speech continues to send chills down my spine.
As I began to anticipate the holiday and consider, once again, Dr. King’s speech, I was reminded of the importance of role models in the lives of our boys. This is a topic, in fact, that I mentioned on the opening day of school and that I have returned to from time to time this year. Monday offers an opportunity not only to remember Dr. King, but also to consider his life as an example for us and for our sons to follow.
Dr. King represents many of the attributes that we seek to instill in our students. He represents the power of perseverance and the influence of ideals. He represents a life lived for the greater good. He represents the reality that one person, even in the face of the most intractable and complicated of issues, can make a difference. As I write, I realize that perhaps the truest way to articulate his influence comes not through rhetoric, but by using his life as an example for our own.
Thus, whatever Monday may hold, perhaps we will find the time to discuss Dr. King’s life and sacrifice with our sons. Perhaps we will find a few minutes, even, to read or watch his speech. In other words, let’s not neglect the occasion and miss this opportunity to pause, at least for a moment, and to remember. In doing so, perhaps we all might follow Dr. King’s example and strive to “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”