Every year, I read or listen to that speech. Each time, those words come alive in my heart. At some point in my life, they became my words, as though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had read my mind. I realize I am in the company of generations of leaders who looked to a day when every child had the chance to live the dream. It was a dream forged out of a life spent in pursuit of it, and not just a day spent celebrating the value of the dream.I obviously don’t think we shouldn’t celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day! However, I do wonder about the point of celebrating on one designated day without letting the dream come alive in our own hearts. I wonder if we’ve contained the dream, when we need it to break forth and connect with us in our daily living — so much so that we aren’t shocked to see someone writing about Dr. King on a day that is not “his day.”
This connection to Dr. King’s words must go beyond the facts and tangible evidence. It has to be the experience of simply knowing that what he said is deeply true. His words remind us that this country rallied together in that knowledge — and that we can do so again. I was too young to experience the movement that Dr. King shaped and energized, but I feel it in my soul. I long for a renewed movement on behalf of children in this country. I believe that there is an awakening under way to the realities of child well-being in this country.
I am like a song stuck on “repeat” mode. Yet, I dare to sing it again. If Americans were asked to name the world’s most economically and militarily powerful nation, most would say the United States without hesitation. And if asked which country did the best job of ensuring child well-being, many would give the same answer. After all, why would anyone want to live anywhere else? People risk life and limb to find the dream that is America.
But for children in the U.S. — particularly those of color — this notion that we lead the way in child well-being is not the reality. Startling statistics bear out this truth, but I don’t know that we need the statistics as much anymore to get this. For many of us, what was once hard to see is bursting forth in our families, neighborhoods, towns, and cities. We see the emergence and growing presence of persistent need and unbelievable injustice.
It can lead many to a crisis of conscience. I’m repeatedly amazed at the shock I see on the faces of adults when they’re shown the circumstances of some children in their own community. I believe we are not fully awake to these children’s realities, and we need a movement that mobilizes us on their behalf. Actually, Dr. King already started the movement. We just have to tap into it daily and not only one day a year.
That’s when I’m also reminded of the importance of partnership with those whom we serve. As World Vision serves across the U.S., we see time and time again that these young people aren’t just the object of our solutions. In fact, they are the designers of those solutions — for themselves and their community. When we empower young people to effect positive change — the way that Dr. King did for those who believed in his vision — we are building a better future for everyone.
The challenges we face are not minor, but they can be overcome. And today, I still have a dream, despite the frustration and the challenges. My hope is that we will join together in that dream on behalf of children and youth every day.