|Source:Hulton Archive/Getty Images via The Guardian Newspaper online|
Today marks 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King jr.'s famous address at the end of the historic civil rights march on Washington DC for "Jobs and Freedom." From my facebook timeline I gather that quite a few of my friends in the area have gathered in Washington D.C. today to mark this historical event.
This morning I read over the profound words of the original address. It was delivered to a racially-segregated and charged America of 1963. The speech starts with references to the emancipation of slaves in 1863 and how “One hundred years later [in 1963], the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
This got me thinking, 50 years on how much has changed? It seems cynical to say nothing has changed but almost naive to say things in America have changed so drastically that Dr. King's words are so alien to the world today. To some extent, Dr. King's dream is fulfilled but yet racial and socioeconomic disparities are still glaring. I remember a decade ago, a friend and I went on a road trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Birmingham, Alabama. What we were struck by was stark poverty in rural Alabama that makes me more inclined towards being cynical about what has changed. However, that was also a road trip a decade ago.
This afternoon I had the great opportunity to listen to a different speech. This time it was a lecture by United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. He made references to the Dr. King's speech and in a world ridden in conflict, he called for everyone to "Give peace a chance, give diplomacy a chance." Although not necessarily ground-breaking, the lecture echoed the importance of peace, freedom, democracy, compassion for humankind regardless of race, nationality, creed or sexual orientation. Powerful things to reflect on.
|Mr. Ban Ki-Moon delivering the Freedom Lecture at the Pieterskerk in Leiden|