Lydia’s friend Laura came for a play date this afternoon. The girls, seven-year-olds, asked to go on the computer, and, as usual, asked for help getting onto a website.
“Daddy, can you Google the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech for us?”
Uh…sure thing. They watched Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his famous speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. They watched the whole thing and asked me to print out a PDF. Then they got off the computer and went downstairs to play in the basement.
I like their teacher.
This evening I read the speech. It is one of the two most important in American history, according to Griel Marcus, the other being Lincoln’s second inaugural. I would agree. It manages to tell America’s history and lay out its destiny in the form of a great and unavoidable challenge. The goal, a dream. It decodes the genome of our experience, in a sense. And just as the Human Genome Project launched us on a long road to curing intractable disease with a new set of tools, King’s speech essentially showed us what we have to work with and pointed the direction to equality in America.
Lydia commented that King kept saying, “100 years later.” I explained he was referring to the time between the Emancipation Proclamation and King’s speech. I started thinking that an additional 43 years has passed. That enormous gains have been made, though much is essentially unchanged. That nearly 146 years after the Civil War, the struggle for racial equality is still our defining challenge.
And I thought about how Lydia and Laura couldn’t take their eyes off the I Have A Dream speech.