August 29, 1988, was hot and humid, and a perfect day to join thousands of sweaty bodies around the reflecting pond in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Our nephew, Mike, was in town, helping us paint the walls in our dining and living rooms, but he and I took a break to join the 25th anniversary celebration of the rally at which Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I have a dream speech.”
The podium was full of dignitaries — celebrities, politicians, and civil-rights leaders — all of whom seemed to feel compelled to say more than a few words, usually self congratulatory. As the afternoon wore on, a few folks fainted from the heat and were transported to cooling tents by EMT personnel standing by. And after the echoes of the last speaker’s voice faded, the multitudes drifted away, leaving a handful of us loitering by the pond, resting our feet from having been standing for several hours.
Mike and I were reflecting on the event, marveling at the number of people who could stand so close together, not knowing, or caring, whose elbows were rubbing their own, without rancor or impatience. Just then a familiar voice came over the PA system, resonant, perfectly modulated. It was Dr. King’s voice, delivering the “I have a dream” speech, just as he had 25 years earlier. Most of the people who attended the anniversary missed it. For Mike and me, it was the highlight of the afternoon. Here was the voice, the words, the passion, that Dr. King had spoken from this very podium, sounding just like it would have sounded at the original event.
I challenge you to take a few minutes, close your eyes, and picture yourself on a hot August afternoon, standing in the midst of thousands of hopeful people, listening to this speech from start to finish. Put on your headphones, temporarily block out today’s world, and hear the words, feel the hope, and experience the dream that Dr. King expressed in that mighty speech.