By Charles D. Allen
Many Americans have bid good riddance to 2020 and are looking forward to the new year. As we enter 2021, Americans should continue to reflect on the vision conveyed by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech given Aug. 28, 1963, during the March on Washington.
More importantly, we should assess whether that vision remains relevant and still desirable. If so, then what are we doing to bring it to fruition?
After the triumphs of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it was obvious to Dr. King that while progress had been made in national legislation, great disparities still persisted in the realities of day-to-day existence for Americans. In an April 1967 lecture at Stanford University, King delivered this fiery rhetoric about “The Other America.”
He set the context by positing: “There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America, millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.”
To provide contrast, King continued, “But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist.In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in
the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
As we begin a new year, my hometown of Carlisle, Pa., continues America’s quest to embrace Dr. King’s commitment to social, economic, and political justice.
This year, my community celebrates its 32nd year commemoration of King’s birthday. On Sunday, Jan. 17 at 4 p.m., we will broadcast an ecumenical service hosted virtually by Carlisle United Methodist Church.
While we cannot meet together physically, we can celebrate remotely through praise in word and song.
Over the course of the past weeks you have seen notices of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Commemoration with the theme, “Remember! Celebrate! Act! Pursuing the Dream: Uniting in Truth and Love.”
Carlisle community members and organizations will have the opportunity to demonstrate support for ideals rooted in American values. Students of the Carlisle Area School District have worked diligently on projects to illustrate their
interpretation of this year’s theme. Their thoughtful and creative works will be showcased during the virtual commemoration event and available for future viewing.
Dr. King had faith in the future because of the youth who believed in the ideals of America as the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
He encouraged the young and old to have faith in the face of trials and uncertainty: “Now let me say finally that we have difficulties ahead but I haven’t despaired. Somehow I maintain hope in spite of hope.. And so I
refuse to despair. I think we’re gonna achieve our freedom because however much America strays away from the ideals of justice, the goal of America is freedom.”
Our commemoration committee invites you to be part of this celebration as we seek to unite our Carlisle Community in truth and love right here and right now.
You can track the work of this community-based committee on Facebook.
Opinion contributor Col. Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, ret’d) is a professor of Leadership and Cultural Studies in the School of Strategic Land Power at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.