The 40th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Have We Fulfilled the Dream?

       
 

Powell Says Nation Must Rededicate Itself to Dream of Martin Luther King

Says not all young black men and women today can realize King's dream

Secretary of State Colin Powell says African-Americans in the United States have achieved a lot in the last 40 years since the March on Washington that culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, but the dream "is not yet fulfilled."

Interviewed for an NBC-TV special program commemorating the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington, Powell said "I am here as the Secretary of State, a black man. Other prominent blacks are all over this country. We've achieved a lot in those 40 years.

"But there are still young black men and women who cannot yet touch the reality of that dream, and that's why, 40 years later, we must rededicate ourselves to not only what Dr. King said, but what our founding fathers said when they wrote the Constitution and wrote the Declaration (of Independence.) That's all he's asked for. That's all anyone asks for."

Following is a transcript of Powell's remarks:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
August 29, 2003

Remarks

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell On NBC Special Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the March on Washington, D.C.

August 28, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: I was not in the United States at the time that Dr. King gave that famous speech. I was in Vietnam. I had been there for eight months. And there was no television, there was no cable, there was no radio, so I wasn't really aware of the speech.

But it meant a lot to me because my wife, at that time, was in Birmingham, Alabama, with our infant son, Michael, and Birmingham was a hotbed of tension and violence, as the people of Birmingham, the leaders of the State of Alabama, were cracking down on Negroes, as we used to be called, who dared to demand their rights and their freedom.

And while I was guarding my nation in Vietnam, my father-in-law was standing guard over my wife and infant son in Birmingham, Alabama.

And so later, when I came home a few months later and realized the impact that that speech had, the impact that it's had for the 40 years since, it just reaffirms in my own mind, in my own heart, the need for us to keep moving toward that dream that Dr. King had.

We've come so far. We've done so much over the last 40 years. But we cannot rest until we achieve the dream that he had in mind, the dreams that he laid out for the nation.

For the first 80 years of our history, or thereabouts, we had a wonderful Constitution, a wonderful Declaration, that had no meaning for people who were black whatsoever; then we had a great Civil War that was supposed to put that all behind us, and then reconstruction came and it ended. Reconstruction was cut off and went back to almost slavery. And then it took another almost hundred years before the work began again, and Dr. King was the leader of that work, and many others who stood alongside of him.

And that speech crystallized everything. What did it do? It put a mirror in the face of America. It said: "Look at yourself. Look at where we are now compared to what the power of the Declaration and the Constitution say. Look at where we are almost a hundred years after the Civil War. Is this where we want to be, America?"

And the answer was no. It was not a speech of hatred. It was a speech of reconciliation. It was a speech of pride in his country. It was a speech that was directed at white people, black people, all God's children, as he said. And we must never forget that that dream is not yet fulfilled. I am here as the Secretary of State, a black man. Other prominent blacks are all over this country. We've achieved a lot in those 40 years.

But there are still young black men and women who cannot yet touch the reality of that dream, and that's why, 40 years later, we must rededicate ourselves to not only what Dr. King said, what our founding fathers said when they wrote the Constitution and wrote the Declaration. That's all he's asked for. That's all anyone asks for.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

  The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial during his I Have a Dream speech.
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during his    "I Have a Dream" speech.
Language versions

 

Title:   Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his most famous address, "I have a dream"
Speaker:   Martin Luther King, Jr
Audio/Video Available:   Listen

 

Transcript/Log:   Martin Luther King at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 28, 1963)

"I Have a Dream"

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as
the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow
we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous
decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves
who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a
joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years
later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of
segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the
Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of
material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished
in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own
land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. 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.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note
insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this
sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a
check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We
refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of
opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check
that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.
We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce
urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to
take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the
promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and
desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the
time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid
rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of
God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.
This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass
until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen
sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro
needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude
awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither
rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship
rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of
our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the
warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of
gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us
not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of
bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high
plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to
degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the
majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. 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. And they have come to realize that their freedom is
inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always
march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the
devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be
satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of
police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy
with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways
and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's
basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be
satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed
of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as
long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York
believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and
we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and
righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great
trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.
Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you
battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police
brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to
work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South
Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums
and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can
and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my
friends - so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I
still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the
true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of
former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down
together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state
sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression,
will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content
of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists,
with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition
and nullification - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and
black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as
sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every
hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain,
and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord
shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with.
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.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will
be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of
liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's
pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so
let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let
freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring
from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.


Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let
freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.


But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.


Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.


Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi - from
every mountainside.


Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow
freedom ring - when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet,
from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when
all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles,
Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words
of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty,
we are free at last!"


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Distribution statement: Accepted as part of the Douglass Archives of American Public Address (http://douglass.speech.nwu.edu) on May 26, 1999. Prepared by D. Oetting (http://nonce.com/oetting).

Permission is hereby granted to download, reprint, and/or otherwise redistribute this file, provided this distribution statement is included and appropriate point of origin credit is given to the preparer and Douglass.

 

 

 

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