“I have a dream”
Tomorrow at 3 p.m. I will press the button that will cause our computer to start our bells ringing out the seven-bell peal. This is in response to the request from President Obama that church bells should be rung to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I have a dream” speech.
This peal of the bells is usually rung for joyful occasions such as the emergence of a newly married bride from the church into the garden. And tomorrow the bells will be ringing in joy that much of Martin’s dream has come to pass. Much of the hateful deliberate separation of black and white people has been ended. Much of the second-class treatment of African-Americans has been stopped. The law prohibits any discrimination based on race or color. And Martin would be overjoyed to see such progress.
But bells have been used to proclaim danger as well as joy. They were to have been the signal in Britain that Hitler’s Nazi troops had invaded. And tomorrow’s bells should have some of that element in them too, because Martin’s dream has not yet been fully realized. We are still surrounded by Fascists who believe that one race is superior to another, that one class is superior to another.
Martin’s dream will not be fully realized until every child and adult has access to the full medical services of this rich country; till every child has access to primary, secondary and tertiary education in accordance with his or her merits or race, with no question of any payment being required. Do we ask our young soldiers to pay for the “privilege” of going abroad and killing the enemies of freedom? Of course not: we pay them handsomely. So why should we ask our young scholars, whose learning will defend us against bigotry and will promote health, respect for the law, scientific discoveries that will benefit us all, why should we ask them to pay for their training? We should pay them as handsomely as our soldiers, to kill and destroy the enemies of ignorance and intolerance.
So the bells will ring with joy that much has been done and is being done, but in warning that much more is needed before this nation is truly “a City set on a hill”, a light to the nations, before every single American can say with Martin “Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!