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Op-Ed: 50 Years Later, Has MLK's 'Dream' Been Realized?

Martin Luther King gave his iconic 'I have a dream' speech on this day half a century ago; despite his profound influence and the legacy he left behind, have we the people brought his dream to fruition?

By: Daniel Koren
Published: August 28th, 2013 in News » World
Martin Luther King Jr.

On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King stood before 250,000 people for the March on Washington who came to rally behind him as he spoke of racial equality for all. Quoting the patriotic song "My Country 'tis of Thee," King declared to his followers to let 'freedom ring.'

"When we allow freedom to ring -- when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, 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, great God almighty, we are free at last," he said to the crowd.

King, an activist, clergyman, and leader of all communities, had a dream, a dream that entailed the emancipation of all people, a dream that entailed that his "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."

Fifty years later, King has surpassed the limitations of martyrdom; his influence on defining the civil rights movement will forever stand the face of time, not to mention the position he has held in American pop culture, politics and society.

His civil rights movement was thoroughly supported by the American Jewish community; in 1958, he told the American Jewish Congress, "My people were brought in America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born out of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid us of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility."

Perhaps because our tribe has, and unfortunately continues to, face countless bouts of racism and persecution, Jewish people reacted strongly to King's human rights campaign; according to Haaretz, half of the white marchers on Washington were Jewish, many of which provided his campaign with funding, and participated in freedom marches, including U.S. Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.

Today, the Jewish community in the Diaspora, and in Israel, heed MLK's words, as well as hundreds of fellow communities across the globe. With countless charitable and non-profit organizations committed to supporting the international Jewish community, we continue to attempt to realize his dream, one day at a time.

But is this enough?

As tensions continue to escalate in Syria and Egypt, as racially charged incidents like Trayvon Martin continue to occur, would MLK Jr. have taken a look at this world and nodded his head in satisfaction?

Despite the good-hearted people, the philanthropists, the volunteers and good samaritans who devote their lives to helping others, would his speech still pertain to today's society?

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be yes.

MLK was a constant advocate for the pursuit of justice and civil rights; this form of advocacy, in the world that we currently live in, does not come to fruition in a day. Certainly, in the fifty years since MLK's dream, we have achieved countless triumphs in the West, and beyond, for human rights, racial equality, freedom of speech, etc.

But advocacy for equality, it seems, is a perpetual cycle. Whereas King may have praised the United States for electing its first black president or for supporting members of the LGBT community, the racial biases and challenges that were facing his community, and the Jewish community, of the 1960s still regrettably exist today.

In the 60s MLK battled to end Vietnam; today, he'd fight to end terrorism. Despite the improvements, the progression, the advancements we've made as a race, King would be as busy today, fighting the good fight, a fight that seems will forever maintain a stranglehold over the human race.

Tensions continuing to escalate in the Middle East would not be part of King's said dream.

An ongoing cycle of Israel-Palestine peace talks being proposed and subsequently tossed in the trash would not have been part of King's dream.

And while we've done much to preserve his honour, his memory, and the remarkable inspiration he's had on the world, today, on the anniversary of King's monumental dream, perhaps we should remember that, while many of us aim to bring this dream to reality, most of us are still sound asleep.

Related articles: Martin Luther King Jr., MLK, Israel, Jewish News
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