Remembering the dream

Aug. 28 would have been a regular school day for me until I sat in the University Student Commons lounge to watch CNN. I thought this day would simply be filled with walking to and from class in 90 degree weather, listening to lectures and wishing I didn’t have to go to work after class. I was surprised to learn that this day marked the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. As I sat there, I began to feel ashamed that I didn’t remember this monumental day in history.

I knew that I was not alone. Many of us remember the speech, but that special place in time when thousands gathered to hear it has slipped our minds. Here we are, attending a school known for its diversity, and we ignore the talents and hard work of a man who paved the way for such freedom. I don’t recall seeing any flyers or announcements around campus to celebrate this anniversary, but it means so much in our history. When we look around campus there are Africans, African-Americans, Asians, Caucasians and so many other ethnicities. We sit in class with each other and tend to forget that some of our grandparents were not given this opportunity. One question that I have is, what does this speech mean to us as the younger generation?

For so many years racism and discrimination kept people separated. Hate was nurtured on a daily basis. As we live our lives can we say that this segregation and inequality is no longer present? Yes, we are able to go to the mall, library and supermarket together, but are we truly equal as a people?

At Potomac Mills, an outlet mall near the Washington, D.C. area, a group of four to five people walking together are often considered a “gang”. This issue was mentioned in one of my classes last week and many students expressed the fact that only groups of African-Americans were targeted. Now is that equality?

I believe that many of King’s hopes and desires expressed in his speech have taken place. We are able to interact freely with each other and share in each other’s experiences, but is the dream alive in the way King would want it to be? We have police brutality, religious warfare and sexual discrimination taking place all over the country. In some cases the rights and opinions of individuals are not respected at all.

King states in his book, “Strength to Love,” that many people want, “…to withdraw completely into themselves and [want] to become absolute introverts. No one is permitted to enter into their lives and they refuse to enter into the lives of others.” Will we ever accept people for who they truly are? Will we ever stop thinking we are better than one another? Will we allow ourselves to remember the dream and let freedom ring?

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