Fifty years ago today, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke before thousands of people in Washington, D.C., and painted a vision of an America this country had never seen before.
King’s “I Have a Dream” speech dared to imagine whites and blacks on equal ground – children going to school together, movie theaters and restaurants open to people of all colors, an America in which everyone had the same opportunities to succeed.
A half of a century later, we can’t say every facet of King’s vision has been fully realized, but this country of all colors has made giant strides toward becoming the land he so eloquently described.
As thousands of people gather today again in Washington, we’re reminded of the role Rocky Mount played in King’s journey. The civil rights leader delivered an early version of “I Have a Dream” during a visit to then-Booker T. Washington High School in November 1962.
Rocky Mount leaders who participated in the 1963 March on Washington shared their remembrances with staff writer Darla Slipke in a special report in Sunday’s edition of the Rocky Mount Telegram. Their stories remind us of the dividends we reap by embracing the diversity of ideas and talents that strengthen our country.
There still are too many inequalities to say that America has fulfilled all of the promises of King’s dream. The number of black people who live in poverty, who are undereducated and who are victims of crime is disproportionately high, compared to whites. Working to resolve some of the social factors that play a role in those problems is a challenge that all of us should tackle. We have so much to gain from a country in which everyone is literate, no one is hungry and people treat one another with respect and kindness.
We’ve come a long way in 50 years. But as we remember Dr. King’s historic moment today, let’s open our eyes and hearts to the miles we have yet to go.