For My ELLs... Honoring Dr. martin Luther King, Jr.

I still have a dream.

It's one of the most celebrated moments and widely studied speeches in American history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 28th, 1963. It was powerful, heartfelt, and beautifully written. I wasn't there. I was only a baby, 6 months old, but his ideas, the Civil Rights Movement, and the accomplishments of this man shaped the world as I would come to know it.

...that one day...little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

A nation divided we were, from segregated schools to discrimination in our communities, Dr. King was a promoter of peace and a fierce defender of the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees freedom for all.

Civil Rights Movement vs. The Civil War

Civil War, the war between the people. This can be confusing if you are new to this country. The Civil War was fought between the northern states (Union or "Yankees") and southern states (Confederates) in the 1800s. The Great President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in January 1863, and his Gettysburg Address in November 1863 during the Civil War. President Lincoln was determined to bring the nation together, firm in his position that all Americans should remember those who fought and won our independence from Great Britain (almost 100 years earlier in 1776), believing that they should put differences aside and unite.

The Civil Rights Movement was a period of time, 100 years later in the 1960s. Slavery had ended, but prejudice and oppression was still alive. Understanding the Gettysburg Address is key to understanding the Dream Speech.

Abraham Lincoln
"100 years later, the negro is still not free." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King

So, during Dr. King's day, life in America had changed, was better, was changing, but SO much more was needed to secure freedom and equality for all who call America "home".

Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial
Thousands attended

The Dream Speech was given during an event called The March on Washington, a peaceful march or protest wherein African-Americans were demanding equality. Many white Americans attended this march, and one of the most powerful lines of the speech, I believe, is Dr. King's line, "They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom," and this remains true, or should, for every American today: If we deny the rights of any of us, as Americans, then we risk denying freedom to all (or some other group) in the future.

And here we are 54 years later, still divided, but still one nation clinging to the promises of our sacred Constitution. I love the "I Have a Dream" speech. It's my favorite speech, and one of my very favorite pieces of non-fiction. I read it every year, I watch the video, and I feel my emotions rise. It's the love of my country, my desire for unity among my people, and my respect for this wonderful and godly man who made such a positive impact, who left such a deep fingerprint on our nation.

On Monday we will celebrate the life of this American leader, and on Friday we will inaugurate our 45th President. Dr. King said, "We must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back." In the same spirit and with the same heart as President Lincoln and Dr. King, it is my sincere hope that Americans will see beyond our differences, honor the sacrifices of all who have died to keep us a free nation, and work together to be a better and stronger country in the days ahead.

"I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American 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 still have a dream."

I hope you'll take the time to listen and/or read Dr. King's most eloquent speech, and enjoy your 3 day weekend!

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