As we remember the 50th anniversary of the famous “I Have A Dream Speech” of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I think about being there, lost in the back of the crowd, but nonetheless there. I would have had a better view of Dr. King on television, but being there was an experience in itself and listening to his voice booming out was something I shall never forget. “It was” as someone there said, “like hearing what God required of us,” and that was to do justice.
Dr. King sometimes called himself a drum major for justice. I think of myself that day more as a flute player lost in a huge band. It made no difference I was there for anyone else except myself, that I can say I was there, that somehow or other I had sense enough to realize something quite historically profound was going to happen that day.
As I have thought about that day, I think what dawns on me now was how peaceful it was, even then as people were fearful of violence. Dr. King preached non-violence and the some 250,000 people there that day followed his guidance. It was a lesson learned from Gandhi and others, that sometimes great change begins without guns or wars or violence.
It was far more memorable being at the Poor People’s Campaign among the crowds there in tent city or being in Selma, Alabama. But on that hot humid August day in 1963, at least I can say I was at the back of the line offering one voice to hundreds of thousands. And as Dr. King said and I hope is true; “The moral arm of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The march goes on, sustained by thousands of nameless acts of justice in a world that sometimes seems cruel and without mercy.