WAYNESBURG – On the 50th anniversary of his world-famous “I Have a Dream” speech given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. was celebrated Monday, even as the nation’s first African American President, Barack Obama was sworn into his second term of office. Coincidentally, it also fell 150 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery.
Taking the podium in the Roberts Chapel at Waynesburg University, Superior Court Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen reminded those attending a remembrance for King of his own words. Spoken during a sermon, delivered before an interfaith congregation at Temple Israel in Hollywood, Calif., in 1965, King emphasized that truth will eventually overcome a lie.
“Deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome. And I believe it because somehow the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” King said. “We shall overcome because Carlyle is right; ‘no lie can live forever.’ We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right; ‘truth crushed to earth will rise again.’”
Expounding on this, Allen said, “During the time of slavery the lies that some people were inferior or less than human was told to justify slavery. But it had no future. Slavery is no longer the law of the land.
“No lie or no man in the wrong can stand up against truth as long as that man in the right keeps coming,” Allen said. “Lies address the present but lies have no future; that is what the word of God tells us. If you look throughout all of history at all of the lies that have been perpetrated, those lies could not stand.”
The United States, as King knew it at the time of his murder in Memphis, Tenn., April 4, 1968, and during the March on Washington, D.C. , in 1963, when 250,000 people joined in a peaceful demonstration to promote civil rights, has come a long way. From the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 to the election of an African-American as president, pieces of King’s “dream” have been accomplished.
It is also evident that more remains to be done to fully realize that “dream.” One is reminded of this at a time when the health care debate is at the forefront of politics and reflecting on King’s 1966 address to the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Chicago, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
It is reflected in his words regarding violence. “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.” King believed that, “instead of diminishing evil, it (violence) multiplies it.”
“Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth,” King said. “Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.”
Allen drove this home, saying “One day, years ago, they arrested truth, put truth on trial, convicted him and beat him all night long, crucified and they buried truth,” she said. “But you cannot destroy truth. Dr. King said, ‘If there is no cause that you’re willing to die for then your life is not worth living.’” Allen said in these times it is not always popular to take a stand, as King did for his dream, but the truth is coming back again and it will overcome.
Taking his stand, King said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Speaking of his four young children, King said he dreamed of the day when they would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. He dreamed that the sons of former slaves and slave owners would sit down together as brothers, and the south, as he knew it, would be free of oppression and injustice.
“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city,” King said. “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 Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”