Earlier this week, as I constructed a display in the library to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I had a chance to read and reflect upon his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech. In doing so, I was struck by the fact that though it was delivered almost 50 years ago, his words continue to touch people even now. Many of you probably first experienced the words as I did – read to you by an elementary school teacher or quoted in a high school history textbook. After those initial experiences, Dr. King’s words continued to find me throughout the years, whether via documentaries and news sound bites or on audio CDs and in children’s books. Despite my many encounters with the speech, in a variety of formats, I was surprised this morning when I found that those stirring sentiments now reside on YouTube as well. The website best known for its videos of baby animals being adorable and illegal copies of current tv shows also hosts historical documents, apparently. When I performed a quick search of the site in my quest for a video of the speech, I found more copies than I could ever need; I was pleased to find that the very first one I opened had enjoyed more than 1.6 million views thus far! In case you have wondered whether his words still carry weight, the fact that they continue to persist in each new media format that springs forward should silence your doubt.
When I consider the vast numbers of speeches lobbed at each of us throughout our lives, whether at political rallies, graduations, religious services, or even here at Berea’s convocations, I am hard pressed to think of any that will enjoy the timelessness of King’s words. So what about King’s speech makes it still relevant and moving? Is it because there is always an “ism” to speak out against? Racism and sexism persist, for example, despite the existence of laws meant to prohibit them. King’s words serve as a reminder that we have a right to desire more for humanity than its current condition; they validate our protests. Or is it timeless because everyone understands what it means to wish for a better future, whether for themselves or others? His words speak so eloquently about our responsibility to improve the world that we love.
Whether it is for these reasons or another, his words still matter. Inspired by them and wanting to be inspired by yours, I’d love for you to share your dreams with our community. Visit our display near the library entrance, by the printers, and share your own vision for the future, no matter how big or small, on one of our “I have a dream…” cards. Here are pictures of a few recent submissions: