Dr Marin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech embodied the hopes and dreams of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA during the 1960s. It is one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century. In the final paragraph from this excerpt of his speech, Dr Martin Luther King Jr quotes Isaiah 40:3 and alludes to the straight path:
…I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!…
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr, ‘I Have a Dream.’
Dr Martin Luther King Jr had prepared a written version of this speech. However, part way through delivering this speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on 28th August 1963, he put his notes aside and spoke directly from his heart. The above part of his speech was inspired and spontaneous. In it, he speaks of his dream of an equal and just society in the USA. He links the dream of attaining justice, equality and freedom for African-Americans with the hope of achieving salvation and walking the straight path, ‘the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’ Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech taught me that justice, equality and freedom are key aspects of the straight path.
After reading his speech, I studied Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s life further. I discovered that he was human and not infallible. He made mistakes, but his achievements far outweighed those mistakes. His life taught me that we all make mistakes, but making a mistake is no excuse for not making our next act a virtuous one. Each of us has the capacity to act virtuously. Each new moment is an opportunity to caste ourselves anew, to choose whether to act virtuously or to submit to vice. Each new moment provides the opportunity to redeem oneself, like the prodigal son, and step back on to the straight path.