The Legacy of the King Dream
As America prepares to mark in remembrance the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let us do so with a sober, abstemious (self-disciplined) mind. National sentiments and emotions seem somber and saddened as we approach sixty years since the March on Washington and the momentous “I Have a Dream” speech. The logic and reasoning of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have outlived most hearers of his words that day in 1963, and they will continue to live on as an engrafted root of this great nation. The legacy of the King Dream has not become a nightmare, as some would have us believe, surely not, but rather a resounding chorus as loud as the roaring sea. The theocentric philosophy of Dr. King, which applied nonviolence as a strategy for change, centered on personal sovereignty and civic righteousness.
What is the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often quoted John Locke, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Reinhold Niebuhr, who was once known as the “Conscience of America.” Today, Americans have personalized both liberty and freedom to clothe themselves in the liberty to choose or freedom to reject those things on which we agree or disagree. So, can we freely and liberally ask, what is the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Is it merely those statements that follow the words “I have a dream?” If so, then we have exceeded all of Dr. King’s expectations and should pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.
In America, we see interracial marriages resulting in biracial children, which no longer result in ire but are a well-deserved outcome of our collective love that transcends race and skin color. We see that the red hills in Georgia hosted a contentious senate race in which the sons of former slaves and slave owners have nominated two Black men; one of whom will represent the state to which Dr. King openly referred. We see that the state of Mississippi has fashioned itself into a beacon of opportunity and innovation that welcomes visitors from around the world with black and white faces and not in blackface. As Dr. King mentioned, his own four children have had the multigenerational opportunity to advance without being judged by their skin color. In Alabama, thanks, in part, to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, an entire state is solidified behind one team with one fight instead of standing in doorways blocking access to education. Are there instances of racism in America today? Sure, there are instances, but America is not a racist nation, and no American institution is off limits based on race.
Yet, these manifestations of change are not the real legacy of Dr. King. In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King stated, “The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all White people, for many of our White brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.” (Library of Congress, 1963) Therefore, his legacy is not superficial or subjective only, but tangible and pragmatic. The legacy of the Rev. Dr. King is real and based in logic and rational thought.
Today, I contend that Dr. King’s legacy is one that continues to be centered on a Holy and Righteous God. Dr. King often describes the God of the Bible, who gave His Son as a living sacrifice that we might see and believe that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.” A functional belief in God is paramount to an in-depth understanding of the future of America as a shining beacon of light where freedom and liberty are derived from a source other than man. Therefore, man can neither add nor take away these truths, which are self-evident.
I also know that the legacy is based on cooperative economics and the construction of neighborhoods and communities that are self-sufficient and resilient. This, sadly, is often best seen amid tragedy as we pick up the pieces after a natural disaster or search for missing children who fall prey to a fallen world. We have shown the capacity to build together a community that is so free that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was explicitly candid and open when he said, “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.” (Library of Congress, 1963). Quite obviously and for a number of reasons, this part of the “I Have a Dream” speech is often omitted and relegated to the annals of history as it does not fit the separatist victimizing agenda of today’s race peddlers—both Black and White. However, we cannot separate Reverend King from his belief in his God, just as we cannot separate God from this great nation. A nation without God is no nation at all but a collection of chaotic individuals who change their values, morals, and languages with the prevailing wind.
How do we live up to the legacy of the King Dream?
Dr. King began his “Let freedom ring” statements by saying that if America is to be a great nation, then logic and reason will compel “all of God’s children” to sing with new meaning “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” Almost 60 years later, I submit to you that 80% of Americans do not know or have not even heard the words to this great song (best performed by Aretha, in my humble opinion). I have yet to see a TikTok or YouTube video of a young person reciting or singing it… instead Americans have twerked, “Tide Podded,” and made fools of ourselves on social media. We have reacted and given our two cents on every social issue, blasted opposing views, and have shared memes of cool quips or one-liners in vain. Enough is enough.
We, today’s America, have not contributed to that roaring sea that is the legacy of the King Dream. It is time for Black men and White men to gather TOGETHER to sing the words of the old Negro hymn, “Free at last, free at last, thank God all mighty we are free at last”. This statement is the last line of the speech. Replaying the footage shows this line was delivered to a crescendo of applause and ovation from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.
It was the aforementioned Reinhold Niebuhr who believed that all civil rights are born of civic righteousness. This belief stems from an idea that the reasonable service of man is not to serve himself, but to serve God only; Sed Servire Deo Tantum. The notion of reasonable service is also found in Romans 12:1, as the Apostle Paul continues to describe a government which rests on the shoulders of the Lord God. Still, in today’s America, church membership is approaching an all-time low, church attendance, since COVID, has declined by as much as 50%, and congregations across this country are failing to meet the spiritual needs of the surrounding communities. Isn’t it ironic that every street named after this man of peace is a bastion of poverty and violence? To be the dream, we have to know the dream, and to add to the dream, we must connect to the source from which all dreams flow.
America is built and undergirded by the idea that strong families produce a strong nation. So, too, is the legacy of the King Dream. During the time of this speech (1963), less than 20% of all children in America were born out of wedlock to a single parent. The number of out-of-wedlock births increased among Blacks as it approached upwards of 25-30% by 1970. Today that number is upwards of 80% among Blacks, 35-40% among Whites, and over 50% for Latinos. This is indefensible and untenable as a nation. Black men and White men, along with our Latino brothers, have an obligation to our women and our children to build strong households. Moreover, it is the obligation of these men to care for and shepherd the weak, the fainthearted, and the elderly. This is not collectivism or some socio-communist agenda. It is quite the opposite, as it is preordained to be so and part of the legacy of the King Dream.
We are but pilgrims in this barren land of life. We are sojourning our way through hills and valleys, mountainsides, and mounds. Our strides are made all the better by every Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, Asian and European that we encounter on this journey. The answer to the question “How do we live up to the legacy of the King Dream?” is simple. Marry and be given unto marriage. Be fruitful and multiply. These are the key ingredients in cooperative economics, strengthening communities, and nation building. Whether stew or melting pot Americans are in this together, one family at a time.
Is the legacy of the King Dream enough to sustain us?
Yes. Yes. And yes, again. As we remember the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we must understand that it is not merely a past effort to remember a civil rights icon. The legacy of the King Dream is a catapult that can be used over and over to hurl the ideas, thoughts, and philosophies of personal sovereignty, personal responsibility, and personal freedom into the future.
America is a free society that is unincumbered by governmental suppression. America has been entrusted to responsible men, not to the detriment or the exclusion of women, but to the praise of women in America. Simply, women give birth to all voters, and to every innovator. I believe that the barometer of this great nation is our women who have carried the torch of family and freedom even as men have languished in uncertainty and selfish pursuits. As a nation, we now press forward towards the mark of freedom and liberty with the legacy of the King Dream as an example.
The future is a blessed hope that grows not from a seed but upon the branches of a mighty tree that was planted with the blood of American patriots, the sweat and toil of slaves, and the sacrifice that tells the story of an Amazing Grace. Our children and our children’s children have inherited a nation that is filled with promise. Dr. King said, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, Black men, as well as White men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Library of Congress, 1963).
Today, let our signatures be added to the congregation of the men before us and future audiences who would rather live in a nation based on freedom and liberty than a nation of hatred and division. Let us not forget that the heirs of an inheritance are the beneficiaries of a legacy and not those who hold the lampstand of today. The legacy of the King Dream is alive and strong and so too is the state of our union. God Bless America. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not to be worshipped or deified, but his legacy should be remembered as a reasonable service. The legacy of the King Dream.