More Than One Dream
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (“MLK Day”) 2024 is Monday, Jan. 15 — and this year, the federal holiday falls on the actual birthday of the visionary minister and civil rights leader! MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated by Congress as a National Day of Service. So, take time to participate in a local community service project, donate to a food bank or charity, check-in on a friend, or shovel a neighbor’s snow – there is plenty of that in Michigan this weekend!
Dr. King is perhaps best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on August 28, 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He made a powerful call to end racism saying:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
But there was much more to Dr. King’s vision — a vision that is relevant today. And what better way to then to see it than through his own words!
Hamburgers, Coffee, and Labor Unions
The night before he was killed, Dr. King was in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers. He saw that civil rights and economic rights where intertwined saying:
“For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”
Dr. King believed that labor unions were the vehicle that could provide working people with a better life. In his speech at the Illinois AFL-CIO convention in October 1965, he said:
“The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, government relief for the destitute, and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life.”
He warned of the dangers of “right to work” :
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining…. We demand this fraud be stopped.”
Status and Stuff
Many of us remember playing as children in the empty space of a closet. Today, some people are hard pressed to find room to hang another piece of clothing or add a shoe box to their overfilled closet.
While Dr. King rejected communism, he saw materialism as problematic. In his 1967 speech opposing the war in Vietnam, Dr. King warned:
“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke about society’s definition of success:
“We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.”
Today Americans are more divided than perhaps any other time in our country’s history. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the division in society in his day, saying:
“We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.”
Dr. King talked about the peril of societal division:
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Miles to Go
More than 60 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the United States is still plagued by the issues of race, racism, and economic inequality amidst great societal divisions. Is America closer to Dr. King’s dream today than when during his life? Perhaps a bit.
But America is like the narrator in Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
America has a very long way to go to realize Martin Luther King. Jr.’s dreams for all.
- Headline Hits: current healthcare news, including record Obama care enrollment, Florida’s plan to import drugs faces obstacles and older adults’ views on Medicare coverage for weight-loss..
- Race Matters: role of race in cancer death rates, patients concern that race impacts healthcare quality, and history’s impact on disparities.
- On the Streets: cities face increase numbers of homeless, Social Security clawbacks, and apartment rents across the country.
- Music to One’s Ears: including my personal favorite, Scientists Played Music to Cheese as It Aged. Hip-Hop Produced the Funkiest Flavor!
On the Streets
Enjoy the weekend!
Suzanne Daniels, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 1416
Birmingham, MI 48012
Office: (248) 792-2187
Email: [email protected]