Do dreams come true?

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ed Joseph
  • 1st Special Operations Wing
To dream, envision or set a goal-- these are simply an "end."  But what about the means to reach that end?

Would it be worth accomplishing our goals if the means we used compromised our integrity or morals? One of the greatest men of  20th century once said, "Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek."

That man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Dr. King was born Michael Luther King Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Ga., but later had his name changed. Being raised in a caring home by his parents who were pastors of their own church, Dr. King was taught to embrace peace. He was not only caring but also highly motivated to overachieve academically. 

Dr. King was extremely bright and intelligent, even as a young child. He clearly set himself apart from his peers by graduating high school and attending college at the age of 15. His academics included but were not limited to a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Morehouse College; a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer; studies at Harvard University; a Ph.D from Boston University in Systematic Theology and 20 honorary degrees from numerous colleges, universities and foreign countries.

Tooled with compassion and wisdom at the age of 28, King began his mission with the motto, "To Save the Soul of America." Dr. King had his sights on complete liberation of mankind and the elimination of injustices.

Through peaceful marches and protests, King addressed three interwoven problems in American culture what he called "The Three Evil Triplets" of racism, militarism and materialism. He believed racism bound African-Americans from reaching a higher level of accomplishment, militarism focused its attention on an unnecessary war in Vietnam and materialism would be the fall of our nation. 

Dr. King wanted America's capitalistic ideology to conform more into a democratic socialistic ideology. With time, his message began to change the culture of America. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were just a few early victories of King's peaceful marches.

Although Dr. King was America's symbol of peace and humility, many despised what he stood for and what he stood against. He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. He was there to help lead sanitation workers in a peaceful protest against low wages and intolerable conditions.

The President of the United States proclaimed April 4th a day of mourning and flags were flown at half-staff. Followers of Dr. King commemorated his life with a plaque outside the hotel where Dr. King was assassinated. It reads in part: "They said one to another, 'Behold, here cometh the dreamer. Let us slay him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.'"

Since Dr. King's assassination, how long did it take America to carry out his dream? How long until we as a nation came to understand what Dr. King risked his life for?

In 1968, U.S. Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, an African-American and good friend of Dr. King's spearheaded the movement to establish "MLK" day to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Four days after Dr. King's assassination, Conyers introduced a bill that would make January 15th a federal holiday in King's honor. Conyers attempts fell on deaf ears in Congress, but Conyers did not give up.

In 1970, Conyers convinced New York's governor and New York City's mayor to commemorate Dr. King's birthday. This caught the attention of the nation, but this was not enough. With greater strides, Conyers enlisted the help of popular singer Stevie Wonder, who released the song "Happy Birthday" for King in 1981, and Conyers organized marches in support of the holiday in 1982 and 1983.

Finally, Washington could no longer ignore Conyers' movement to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by honoring his birthday as a national holiday. On Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday as of January 20, 1986, but the bill still had to go through the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

U.S. Congressman William Dannemeyer from California and Senator Jesse Helms from North Carolina led the opposition to the bill. They argued it was too expensive to create a federal holiday and estimated it would cost $225 million annually in lost productivity. They also held a filibuster against the bill portraying Dr. King as a communist who did not deserve the honor of a holiday.

After 18 years of deliberation, America finally recognized the first celebration of Dr. King's birthday on January 20, 1986. Although some Southern states protested the new holiday by including Confederate commemorations on the same day, but by the 90s, the holiday had become established everywhere in the United States.

Reagan's proclamation of the holiday explained the reason for the commemoration: "This year marks the first observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a national holiday. It is a time for rejoicing and reflection. We rejoice because, in his short life, Dr. King, by his preaching, his example, and his leadership, helped to move us closer to the ideals on which America was founded... He challenged us to make real the promise of America as a land of freedom, equality, opportunity and brotherhood."

Dreams Do Come True!

Sources: "The Unfinished Mission of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." by Dr. Jennifer Leigh Selig