Dr. King’s Desire for Change is Still a Universal Hope Today

I’m halfway to the top of the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the National Mall and the Washington Monument, when it hits me.

I’m standing in the exact same spot that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did 50 years ago, when he gave his iconic “I Have a Dream Speech.” I am overlooking the same expansive green, the same glistening reflecting pool and the same stately monument on the other end of the city (despite its temporarily different look under construction). I’m seeing our nation’s capital from the same vantage point as King did on August 28, 1963, when he spoke of the now famous dreams he had.

It’s at this moment that I realize I have the same dreams as King. In fact, I think we all do.

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement that he led stood for equality and acceptance. He rallied for a nation that would provide everyone the same chances and opportunities. He desired a more perfect world. Needless to say, 50 years later, these dreams are still largely unfulfilled.
I do not pretend to know the struggle of racial minorities in this country today or 50 years ago, and I do not intend to equate my experiences with those of others. But, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I get it.

To a certain extent, everybody knows what it’s like to want to fit in. Everybody likely has experienced a disparity between personal beliefs and established social norms at one point in time. Everybody can probably pinpoint something- an institution, a service, a law- that they wish was better. Everybody wants to be judged by the “content of their character,” as King wished for his children.

The Civil Rights Movement manifests itself in all of us. Regardless of race, ability, gender, sexual orientation, height, weight, nationality, hair color, age or anything else, everybody has a stake in King’s dreams, and more so, everybody has a responsibility to see his dreams come to fruition. It took a trip to Washington, D.C. for me to come to understand this fully.

“Make a career of humanity,” King said at the Youth March for Integrated Schools in April 1959. “Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

Fifty years later, his words still ring true. Too often, my generation ignores problems that we feel don’t apply to us. We forget about the past in favor of the present. But Martin Luther King Jr.’s messages are universal and transcend the test of time.

We still must stand up for love and freedom. We still must fight for the fair treatment of all individuals. We still must strive for change. As King said, “This is our hope.”