Written by Tim Wood
One of the most famous speeches of the 20th century was given by Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963. Thousands of people had gathered on the mall of Washington D.C. in sweltering heat to support the Civil Rights movement. His speech was called, “Normalcy, no more.” It was a new speech. One of King’s advisers, a man named Wyatt Walker told King, “Don’t use the lines about ‘I have a dream. It’s trite, it’s cliché. You’ve used it too many times already.” It was King’s intention to follow that advice. King was sixteenth in the program and in the shadow of the Lincoln Monument, King paid homage to Lincoln and made references to Shakespeare in his prepared text. But it wasn’t until he quoted from the Bible that crowd really came alive. With the voice of a preacher King proclaimed, “One day justice will roll like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” (quoting Amos 5:24). The crowd began to erupt in applause and “Amen’s”.
King was winding up what would have been a well-received but, by his standards, fairly unremarkable oration. “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana,” he said. Then, behind him, Mahalia Jackson cried out: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin. Tell ‘em about your dream!” Then King grabbed the podium and set his prepared text to his left. Clarence Jones who was on the stage with King that day said, “When he was reading from his text, he stood like a lecturer, but from the moment he set that text aside, he took on the stance of a Baptist preacher.” Clarence Jones turned to the person standing next to him and said: “These people don’t know it, but they’re about to go to church.”
And Martin Luther King Jr. told us about his dream. A God-sized dream. Do you understand that his dream wasn’t a secular dream? It wasn’t a political dream. King’s dream was inspired by the Christ he followed. It was borne out of Scripture. It was a dream that black kids and white kids could hold hands together and live as brothers and sister. It was a dream that people wouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. It was a dream that God birthed in the heart of Martin Luther King Jr.
As we honor this great preacher, this great American, may we too have courage to dream God sized dreams for God’s glory and our good!