Sunday, October 16, 2011

"I have a dream ... "

Sunday morning is leisure morning. My TV alarm is set to a news show I used to call "George Stephanopoulos" but now call "Christiane Amanpour." The DVR has recorded "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation," which I will kick back and watch over my 5-minutes-to-prepare Sunday breakfast of waffles and bacon. Since getting cable not too long ago, I've been able to squeeze in some of CNN's Sunday morning offerings as well. (News junky.)

I flicked over to CNN when I got up after Christiane, and the President was nearing the end of a speech at the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial on the Capitol Mall.

For the few minutes remaining of the President's speech, I was listening to the voices of cats. Chloe had been walking all over me, meowing for the small serving of canned food she receives as a delivery system for her pill. She comes first. I feed her in my room to delay the arrival of certain other cats who'll snatch the food, and pill, right off the plate in front of her.

Those certain other cats were crashing at the doors of the kitten room. But I strap the door handles together to keep kittens from escaping until Chloe has a head start on the food. Meanwhile, one of the feral kittens outside, whose habitat had once again been rearranged this weekend, had her little meowing face up to the screen door.

By the time all babies were fed and my breakfast was in hand, CNN was about to broadcast Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech in its entirety as it was shown on giant screens at the dedication ceremony.

I intended NOT to watch it. After all, I'd seen it in its entirety August 28, 1963, and heard excerpts many times since. I intended to watch the programs recorded earlier. Yet my hand, busy settling my breakfast implements in, did not move to the remote.

And I listened to the speech once again. It's as stirring now as it was then.

There was tension on that day in August. Dr. King was one of six leaders of civil rights groups that organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dr. King by no means enjoyed the widespread esteem he is held in today. By no means was he the leader of everyone working for civil rights, some of whom did not embrace the nonviolence he preached. Formidable forces fought back against the idea of racial equality, and the speech portrayed a vision for the future, not a description of the present.

There was the underlying threat that something could go wrong, that violence could erupt in the mammoth gathering, that police could overreact to some incident. It was not hard to imagine dire possibilities. It was with joy and a sigh of relief that the day ended in peace as it began, that Dr. King and other speakers inspired us.

Because I supported nonviolence and racial equality, Dr. King was always my hero "in the day." I heard of his assassination while I was outside hanging up laundry. I heard it on the battery-operated radio that I carried around with me, news junky then as now. And I feared for what might happen.

Later today, CNN carried a lot more information about Dr. King and the the movement. I only caught fragments on the radio, as I was in and out of the car.


  1. I was born after the assassination of MLK so I was not able to hear his speak on the day he made it. Nevertheless, I have heard it in its entirety and it always moves me to tears. He is and always was a true hero.

  2. I don't have a connection to this event except in an historical manner as I was too young at the time. But I keep wondering - what was up with the assassinations? John and Bobby Kennedy, MLK, Malcolm X. Must have been a crazy period to those who were adults then.