‘I Have a Dream’ Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The speech ‘I Have a Dream delivered by prominent African-American leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before a massive audience of more than 200,000 people on 28 August 1963 at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. was undoubtedly the cornerstone and turning point of the American Civil Rights Movement that would go down “as the greatest demonstration for freedom in U.S history.” (American Rhetoric, 2008)

Twenty-five years have now passed since Dr. King’s historic speech. During that time American has certainly been transformed into the American Dream World that Dr. King dreamt about. I know it, and every American knows it. We are convinced because the very next year after Dr. King’s speech, the U.S Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. The Act granted Dr. King’s fervent wish {that all Americans, whether black or white, be granted “unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (American Rhetoric, 2008)}.

Racial discrimination was wiped out once and for all by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and since that time while there had been stray incidents of racism, the number of such happenings dwindled and eventually vanished in the face of law regulatory bodies’ praiseworthy efforts to uphold the rights of all American citizens without racial discrimination.

Dr. King’s wish that people be not “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (American Rhetoric, 2008) has come true in flying colors since 1964. In fact, it has come true to such an astounding extent that, had Dr. King been alive today, he’d have literally jumped for joy. American-Indians have done exceedingly well in all fields ranging from arts to sports to science. Imminent African-American personalities have etched their famous names in American history forever.

Notable examples are TV personality Oprah Winfrey {one of the most powerful women in media}, actor Will Smith {a dynamic box office attraction in Hollywood films}, Ben Carson {heart surgeon}(Thomas, 2008), Charles Drew {Blood Bank inventor}, Robert Lawrence {astronaut}, Muhammad Ali {3 times world boxing heavyweight

champ}, Tiger Woods {Golf champion}, Vanessa Williams {Miss America}, Colin Powell {former U.S Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff}, Condoleezza Rice {current U.S Secretary of State} and Barack Obama {current Democratic Party Nominee for U.S President}.

Dr. King’s joy at the above success rate of African-Americans would however be tempered when several not-so-good statistics come to light. In the field of education, a large number of young African-Americans {double the number of white Americans} drop out of school, so much so that in several cities, less than 50% of school pupils graduate. Poverty in the U.S features 24% African-Americans living below the poverty line as compared to only 8% of white Americans.

On the medical front, the percentage of persons infected by HIV/AIDS in the African-American community is 10 times the rate of the white community. Where crime is concerned, while African-Americans account for 13% of the U.S population, a whopping 40% of them are incarcerated or on parole (Thomas, 2008). Dr. King will be among the first to admit that the discouraging statistics can be blamed to one and just one source: the African-American community. Unlike the situation in 1963 that prompted Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream speech, neither the American government {Federal or any State government} nor white Americans can be blamed for these discouraging statistics.

Many African-Americans have either not properly used the facilities available to them {such as the excellent education network of State schools, private schools, colleges, universities and libraries}, or have indulged in crime and anti-social activities that have been rewarded with incarceration, or have practiced unsafe sex or drug abuse that has contributed to the high rate of HIV/AIDS.

Being a big hearted and broad minded leader, Dr. King would have been pleasantly surprised to note three new features about America today. First of all, there are many people of various nationalities and ethnicities presently inhabiting America. Besides the majority-white Americans and second-highest number {African-Americans}, the American population contains American Indians, Hispanics, Europeans, Asians and persons of Middle East origin.

The country has literally become a ‘melting pot’ where all these people have come together and formed a unified culture. They have many things in common: they speak English, dress similarly, and eat mostly the same kind of food. The country’s education system, mass communication, and other influences have helped them shape a common identity. Secondly, America has also become known as the land of cultural pluralism wherein many Americans have retained characteristics of the cultures of their ancestors.

Cultural pluralism is evident in the way Americans of various national or ethnic origins reside in separate neighborhoods in many cities, in the way shops and restaurants in these neighborhoods reflect their cultural background, in how they celebrate ethnic festivals, and in the way they teach their children their ethnic language in addition to English. Lastly, the country, its government and people have survived a ‘baptism of fire’ of terrorism.

While the terrifying events of 9/11 would have brought most countries and their people to their knees, America rallied to recover from the horror, learn valuable lessons from it, and put into place a foolproof series of safeguards that have so far proved so imminently satisfactory that no further terrorism incidents have been experienced. In addition to this enviable track record against terrorism, America has taken the leadership role in combating terrorism all over the world {as is presently evident from its pro-active fight against Al Qaeda terrorists holed up in the terrain between Pakistan and Afghanistan}.

Having said that, there are two things I am angry about.

The first is the way illegal immigration is taking its toll on the country as well as on Americans. First of all, it increases the crime rate in the country as illegal immigrants are heavily involved in crime such as robberies and drug related offenses. More importantly, terrorists who do not want to be recognized at legal points of entry for obvious reasons, mingle with illegal immigrants to slip unobtrusively into the country and plan terror and mayhem.

Secondly, government and government-funded organizations lose heavily due to illegal immigration – taxes are lost; State schools lose money by teaching children of illegal immigrants; State hospitals lose money by treating illegal immigrants and their families free of charge; the Police Department, National Guard, Justice Department and Border Patrol lose money trying to control illegal immigration; and Anti-Terrorism personnel spend time and money to smash terror plots before they can be put into operation.

Lastly, the livelihood, safety, and security of U.S. citizens are compromised. Middle and lower class citizens have lesser job opportunities as U.S. employers prefer cheaper illegal immigrant labor; this threatens their livelihood and compromises their ability to provide for and look after their families. I hope that the government steps up measures to curb this menace which is creating a blot on an otherwise perfect scenario of unhindered development and communal harmony.

The second thing I am angry about is something that Dr. King, albeit inadvertently, touched upon – an issue that has been alarmingly coming to the fore quite frequently. I refer to him saying that America had “defaulted on its promissory note” by giving a bad check backed by “insufficient funds” to African-Americans (American Rhetoric, 2008). If recent events are reviewed, it has not been America as a country, but prominent American institutions that have being guilty of this crime not only against African-Americans but against all Americans – I refer to the recent 2001 Enron scandal immediately followed by the WorldCom scandal in 2002 that shook the world as never before.

Earlier this year, the high profile bankruptcy of financial giant Lehman Brothers sent in motion a chain of events which the government is trying to currently stop with a massive $ 700 billion package that Parliament has recently approved. I wish that the government introduces foolproof regulations accompanied by stringent punishments to the guilty, to deter such high profile scandals.

America as it is today is definitely a place I love to live in, and a place I want to continue living in because it not only embodies the American Dream as envisaged by Dr. King, but because it that has far exceeded all his expectations. While it may rank behind other countries {America ranks third in the world behind China and India in terms of population and fourth behind Russia, Canada and China in terms of area}, there is no doubt that it today leads the world in almost everything else – ranging from production of goods and services, to highest life expectancy {75 years}, to being the world’s one and only military superpower.

When one adds to this list the fact that Americans enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, then, in my opinion, the country is the ideal place for future American generations to thrive and prosper. I therefore fervently wish that my children and their siblings will be an integral part of these future American generations.

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