I have shared another version of this story in the past, but it is worth repeating…
I remember the day like yesterday– January 16, 1995. I had just woken up and was preparing for my day while my husband of a few months still slept, or so I thought. I was in the kitchen when I heard a booming voice from our bedroom say, “I have a dream!” I looked toward the bedroom and wondered if my husband was talking in his sleep. I waited for a second, and hearing nothing more, I went back to what I was doing. A minute later, I heard the voice again, “I have a dream that one day…” He definitely had my attention and he wasn’t talking in his sleep. I walked into our bedroom and saw him sitting in bed, holding a book by Martin Luther King, Jr. open to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. When my husband saw me walk into our bedroom, he cleared his throat and started reciting the speech from the beginning, in as much character as he could muster. He read the entire speech as I stood there watching. After he finished, he closed the book, then looked up at me and said, “It’s Martin Luther King Day you know? He has always been one of my heroes. I read his speech to you in honor of him, what he stood for, and all that he did.”
Wow. My husband definitely caught me off guard, which he likes to do. At first I didn’t know what to think. Now, after eighteen more years of powerful renditions of the “I Have a Dream” speech, I too have come to understand and respect even more all that Martin Luther King did to make a difference in our country.
A few years ago my husband and I were in Washington, DC, and we took the time to visit the Lincoln Memorial. After reading the Gettysburg address inscribed in the walls of the memorial, we stood in the exact spot where Dr. King gave his renowned speech. It was powerful to be at the memorial of one of my favorite presidents, but add to that the opportunity to imagine what it might have been like for Dr. King to look out over a sea of people covering the mall, listening to his poignant words…well, it was amazing. I thought again about how much this man accomplished during his life, and what a difference he made.
I think one of the things that impresses me the most about Dr. King is the fact that he believed strongly that one person could make a difference, and he was willing to devote his life to standing up for what he believed was right. As parents, I believe we can all make an effort to encourage our children to stand up for what they believe is right. I am concerned that many young people don’t have much drive and passion about things that really matter. I know there are many youth to whom this characterization doesn’t fit, but overall there is clearly room for our youth to improve. It is important to have passion. To have conviction. To be willing to make a stand. To make a difference. It is our responsibility to share stories of the great leaders like Dr. King, so our children can understand what standing up to make a difference looks like in our history.
Today is a perfect day to start the conversation with our children about living a life that models the good things that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for, and all he and other leaders before him and since did to make a difference in this world. Maybe our children will be inspired and carry that into their future, and their children’s future. Now, that would be a great thing.