He was a visionary,I told them. He wasn’t a perfect man, but the world changed because of him. We need more people like him. Visionaries.
We are driving to church and I am telling them about the march the following day. A worship service is scheduled in the morning and following it, the people are marching. They are marching to the Capitol for a celebration. Commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At church, our pastor reads us the story of Samuel—how God speaks to him when he is just a boy. And she mentions Dr. King and says that if God puts a dream in your heart…you must be listening to hear his voice. And she tells a story that I have never heard about the fears Dr. King faced and how he heard God’s voice.
And I am stuck on this:
Then the Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
The Lord came. And stood there.
So I tell the boys we need to go. We need to go and march to the Capitol.
Only, I forget that I’ve scheduled two meetings at just the wrong times and there’s no way we’ll make it. So, instead, we march down to the creek and I climb up on the bridge, much to the horror of my children, and I read the last part of the speech from my iPhone—that part that gives me goose bumps—I call it out over moving water, preach it to the gaping windows of my neighbor’s houses.
I have a dream, I say. 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, I say. 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.
And I’m standing high and looking down and my boy looks up at me, alarmed. He realizes I’m going to see this thing through. And I am not whispering.
He looks around.
Mom, come down from there,he says.
But I keep on.
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!
And my neighbor comes outside with her dog. She’s still in her pajamas. It’s the same woman who saw me sitting in my van in the middle of the street at 8:00am. Because Jeffrey wanted me to drive him down to see if the creek is frozen.
But I go on.
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.”
My boy is looking up at me and I can see it. I can see when the shift happens.
This is our hope, and 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…
He is looking up and I see him realize. That God came. And He stood beside Martin.
And when this happens, 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…
And when I finish, he helps me down. He takes my arm and his lingers on mine for a moment.
We read that essay in English Lit. When we were studying persuasive essays, he says.
And I know that this is his way of saying it’s pretty cool.
Well, I say. It’s very passionate.
And, he says. Very persuasive.
And he’s smiling, and I’m thinking, oh yes…the world needs more visionaries.
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!