The first time I heard Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech was at the end of a class period. It was my freshman year in college, 2011. I was studying debate, just a week away from the final round of persuasive speeches. As the projector came to life, filling the darkened classroom, inaudible sighs sounded. Students rustled papers, snapped books closed, and zipped backpacks up impatiently.
The melody of King’s voice filled the room. With the crackle of aged video footage and the monochromatic picture, we were taken back to Aug. 28, 1963. A sudden hush followed. It was as though every student in that darkened classroom had breathed in and forgotten to exhale.
We, too, dreamed with a man who spoke with colorful parallelism and hopeful conviction. For five minutes, we could believe, with King, in a better world. It was a dream that reached each of us in some way, which to this day touches the soul with its timelessness.
When the projector shut off, there was no rush to the door. The girl behind me swiped her face with the back of her hand, as if clearing her mind to reality. We were brought back to a room where injustice and inequality still stained our lives, where cliques and factions still feuded. As I shouldered my backpack, I sensed the faint ache of longing.
For a few minutes, I could see the day where people will not be assessed based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. I could envision a world without preferential hiring and glass ceilings. What would it be like to look through glasses that see all people as one color? To live in a world that has abolished stigmas and slurs, prejudice and chauvinism?
There would be no more pay gap, no more hate crimes, no more bullying. No more tall people, short people, fat people, blonde people jokes. No more stereotypical renderings, no more assumptions based on your sex or size, eye slant or body shape.
What would it be like to live in such a world?
It would be a unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Perhaps that is why King’s dream, while resoundingly convicting, seems almost otherworldly. Why, in some ways, it appears almost unattainable.
But that should not stop us from doing our part to end the injustices and prejudices in our lives. It is our responsibility to stand up for those who are bullied and mocked, to speak out against the naysayers and the haters, the racists and the scoffers. It is our duty to stand up and break the chains of modern slavery that bind us, the chains of cynicism, criticism and censure.
Only then will we start to see the fulfillment of King’s dream.
When we believe, as King did, that we can make a difference, we can change the world. When we never step down or give in to the temptation to give up. This was why King could say that “even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
This hope is our ticket to a better world.