Record editorial: The dream of MLK, not yet fulfilled, is possible in our time
It was 56 years ago that a Baptist minister from Atlanta stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and told a nation about his dream.
In front of more than 250,000 supporters, he detailed freedoms in America’s founding documents guaranteed but unfulfilled. He spoke of inalienable rights and the urgency of the moment and yearned for a future in which people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Seventeen minutes of soaring oratory forever changed a nation. During the civil rights era and in the decades since, the blood, sweat and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Americans committed to the ideals Martin Luther King Jr. embodied have moved us closer to realizing his vision.
Long gone are the days when black people were relegated to the back of the bus. In schools across America, children of all colors learn together in the same classrooms and play on the same fields. We all drink from the same water fountains. For young generations learning about our country’s history, Jim Crow America can seem like another world.
As we mark the towering legacy of Dr. King on Monday, however, the fissures of race remain, still glaring and painful like a fresh wound. Despite the progress, the creed that all men are created equal — that radical notion spelled out in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence — continues for too many of us to ring hollow.
We are reminded of that every time an unarmed person of color is killed without cause by a police officer, and then again if the legal system, as it often has, fails to deliver justice. We see it in the faces of the children whose opportunities are limited because they were born in the wrong ZIP code. We understand it each time lawmakers unfurl the same, tired arguments in favor of measures designed to restrict the minority vote.
And we have been horrified by it as white nationalism and racism disguised as efforts to protect America have crept into the political mainstream. There is ugliness right now in this country.
But like in the time of Dr. King, we are inspired by the people working to counteract those forces. There are plenty of them in Summit County, both in elected office and among the general populace. This is a place where color is not a barrier to love and compassion and one where efforts to address inequalities are underway.
That, along with the example of countless Americans who continually endeavor to make this land more free, gives us hope that, despite a difficult road ahead, we may yet live to see the promises laid out in our country’s origin fulfilled in our time.
On Monday, we’ll ponder on that future while honoring a Baptist minister who long ago believed it was possible, a man from Atlanta who had a dream and moved a nation.
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