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John W. Eyster: 'Do we still believe in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream?'

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John W. Eyster
August 29, 2013

In the midst of the swirling celebrations, observations, marches, speeches around the 50th anniversary of the “MARCH ON WASHINGTON” of August 28, 1963, I was grabbed and CHALLENGED by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial published last Tuesday, “Do we still believe in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream?”

I read the editorial and was left with consternation and concern.  I invite you to read the editorial and share your thoughts through comments.  BE ASSURED I shall be reading and considering your comments.

I would also encourage you to access the editorial online to see the complementary list, “Related MLK Coverage” with a wide-range of perspectives.

The editorial challenges us asking whether we still believe in the dream or whether it has become just, “…in the immortal phrasing of Langston Hughes — another dream deferred?”  The editorial has special relevance for us since it brings the issues home to Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

I agree with the editorials assertion, “King's speech was a catalytic moment, a masterpiece of oratory by perhaps the greatest of American orators. Listen to it now, watch it now and you will be moved just as powerfully as were the thousands on the Mall that day. Just as powerfully as the nation was moved to action in the succeeding years.”  I agree with a recommendation made on Wisconsin Public Radio that one should LISTEN to the “I Have the Dream Speech” rather than read it.  It was written for oral delivery.

The editorial provides a list of issues TODAY which continue to challenge the principles and fulfillment of King's DREAM.

The Editorial challenges us, “Injustice and oppression come in many forms and will always reinvent themselves, which is why injustice and oppression must be fought continually. Fifty years later, we must still hold on to King's dream and join him in his belief that:

"'When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'"

There are many, many media reports on the 50th anniversary speeches and other events.  I got a real surprise when I read a “confession” by associate editor Robert G. Kaiser, “An overlooked dream, now remembered,” in the Washington Post last Friday, August 23.  The promo on the Post's website reports the gist of the article, “'We blew it:' How the Post missed the 1963 'Dream.'”  The article describes the Capital City on that Wednesday, August 28, 1963 to explain why the Post “missed” reporting on the “DREAM” speech.

Kaiser reports, “The Post, however, got embarrassed. The main event that day was what we now call the 'I Have a Dream' speech of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most important speeches in U.S. history. But on the day it was given, The Post didn't think so. We nearly failed to mention it at all.

“We were poised and ready for a riot, for trouble, for unexpected events — but not for history to be made. Baker's 1,300-word lead story, which began under a banner headline on the front page and summarized the events of the day, did not mention King's name or his speech. It did note that the crowd easily exceeded 200,000, the biggest assemblage in Washington “within memory” — and they all remained 'orderly.'

“In that paper of Aug. 29, 1963, The Post published two dozen stories about the march. Every one missed the importance of King's address. The words 'I have a dream' appeared in only one, a wrap-up of the day's rhetoric on Page A15 — in the fifth paragraph. We also printed brief excerpts from the speeches, but the three paragraphs chosen from King's speech did not include 'I have a dream.'

“I've never seen anyone call us on this bit of journalistic malpractice. Perhaps this anniversary provides a good moment to cop a plea. We blew it.”  Confession is good for the soul.  THANKS for the information and perspective, Robert G. Kaiser!

YOU can read the full transcript of President Obama's remarks yesterday at the Washington Post, “Remarks by the President at the "Let Freedom Ring" Ceremony Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.”

The video of the full program at The Lincoln Memorial is available from several sources online.  I recommend the very credible source, C-SPAN which has the FULL 5 hours available.  You can use this link to watch the video, “50th Anniversary of March on Washington.”

I myself pray with the audacity of hope that we do TRULY & EARNESTLY still believe in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream!  What do YOU think?

Here we go…

Mr. E.


John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor of political science at UW-Whitewater and an advocate for Project Citizen, a model curriculum for democracy/civics education in Wisconsin high schools. John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.


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