Monday, January 16, 2012


Today I had a sobering realization.  As I read the full text of Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech (thanks to a re-tweet of a link to the article), I was moved nearly to tears.  Those tears were not just from King's powerful words, but from my sudden consciousness of the fact that in my 29 years of life, nearly 20 years of formal education, and 4 years as a college history major, I have never read the entire speech.  Never read the entire speech

I am embarassed at my own laziness for not seeking out such a moving speech. 

I am embarassed that my educators were unable to impress upon me the importance of King's words beyond "I have a Dream". 

I am embarassed that during college, my favorite part of our campus-wide MLK day celebration was that Monday classes were cancelled, which meant an extra weekend drinking night. 

I am embarassed that I nearly passed on reading King's speech just this morning in favor of spending more time with Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback. 

I am embarassed at how adamantly I claim that I am not racist, yet I have failed to acknowledge one of the most influential moments in putting an end to institutional racism. 

Okay, Nathan, so you are embarassed - what now?  It's a good question and one I'm not sure I can answer today.  I embarass myself a lot and it doesn't necessarily mean that some monumental change is coming.  To me, more than anything, I see this as another part of my continuing education.  If nothing else, it means I am more aware, more cognizant of my own deficiencies. 

One thing that I did learn in college as a history major is that there is power in understanding the events of the past in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.  I hope that this experience helps me remind the importance of that fact and take a greater interest in events like this one.  I hope that I never again feel compelled to write a post like this one in which I must admit my ignorance of such a large step toward realizing King's 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'm sure that some who are reading this will brush it off as me getting sappy one day - as I probably would have with a similar article I came across in the past 29 years.  I did not compose this post to flatter myself in to thinking I can change anyone, say anyone is a bad person that doesn't "celebrate" MLK day the "right" way, or condemn the actions of others who have lived under a similar cloud to my own.

My goal with this post is to open up a bit, let you see a different side of me, and be more accountable for my words and actions.  I don't anticipate you seeing a lot of posts like this one on my blog - for one thing, despite its simplicity, this has been one of the most difficult things I've ever written. 

And so, I look to words from Mr. King's speech which I first read today to help me put the past where it belongs and learn from my own ignorance.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. 

1 comment:

  1. Good work. When I went to get my teaching degree, my teacher made us listen to a ton of MLK recorded speeches, not for content, but for structure, cadence, and most of all how to sell something to an audience that will be resistant to the message. Racism in general is a difficult topic. Why no one ever would want to be called a racist, how do you joke about it, or say anything that can or can't be construed as racist, even if that is as far from the truth as possible? No answers here, just always a tough topic.