Councilmember Don Guzman’s opening remarks at the Aug. 20 Council meeting.
This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our country’s most important political speeches of the century, which was delivered before a quarter of a million Americans on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at our nation’s capital.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech changed the path of civil rights in America and brought to generation of Americans new hope and a sense of responsibility to make our country greater.
On August 28th, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “1963 is not an end, but a beginning,” he called for our nation to make freedom mean equality, justice and opportunities for all and not just for some. He shared his dream that one day children may “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Dr. King uplifted our nation with a great sense of hope – that race, gender and age should not diminish equal opportunities. He believed that each person has a responsibility to do their part to bring about change.
Just fifty years have passed since his famous speech changed the course of history in America. Children today are growing up with an African American president, more women are in professions today that were once thought to be reserved for men only, and minorities are rightfully receiving education, housing and work opportunities that were denied them and their parents.
Once thought impossible – these things are happening more and more.
“Dr. King said that in the future, there will be born a new generation with new privileges and new responsibility. I hope that they will remember that they did not achieve these new privileges and new opportunities without somebody suffering for it and sacrificing for it.”
Those thoughts are important to us because it says to my generation and future generations that past generations were keenly aware of what they were sacrificing and that they do and did not have an expectation that the next generation would care about stewardship.
Martin Luther King’s dream is our reality and responsibility.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s primary legacy will be as the remover of burdens and the healer of scars. All of our lives are enhanced by not having to carry the burden of being an oppressor, being someone filled with hate. Being a person for whom the ceiling has been lifted so that talent and merit is the primary driver of an individual’s life outcome.
We consider that an extraordinary gift to all individuals, no matter your background, ethnicity or class.
The most important thing Dr. King tried to make people understand is that the most things can be figured out, if we just do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
What’s significant to me today, 50 years later, is that the speech is equally inspiring. We still draw not just inspiration, but it provokes us to think about what role we play in creating a community that has the kinds of harmony and commitment to justice that he describes.
The speech reminds us and reinforces the reasons why we are serving on this Council: to make a significant and substantive change in the lives of people less fortunate in our community.
We still have a ways to go to fulfill Dr. King’s dream. And as parents, citizens, and community leaders we must continue to do our part – today and in the years ahead. Our children will lead their own families and communities one day and they will learn from us.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called upon our nation’s people to help fulfill a vision of freedom and equality.
We are doing it. One generation at a time.
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