I remember the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I was nine. I didn’t really understand much about it because I was an immature kid more interested in playing with my army men (I know, a bit ironic, isn’t it) and listening to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games on KMOX radio in St. Louis. I didn’t think much about whether someone was black or white at that time. I can even remember asking my brother if the two Baltimore Oriole sluggers Frank and Brooks Robinson were brothers. He just laughed at me. I never realized what was so funny. The day King was assassinated I lost a little bit of my childhood because I heard someone say, “I’m glad they finally got that S.O.B.” I wondered at the time how anyone could hate someone so badly that they wished that person dead.
I teach now, have for about 30 years. Every year in my public speaking class I play King’s I Have a Dream speech, the full speech. I try to explain as best as I can about the water cannons, the dogs, and the riots; and I also try to talk about the beauty of King’s message. It saddens me that we still have people who are fighting for equality in our country — our supposedly enlightened country. I have had gay students who have been bullied for feelings they can’t help and who have been denied their chance to love someone who will love them back. I have heard of poor students who were ridiculed because of their clothing. I myself was bullied for many reasons. I was poor. I was also suffering from bipolar disorder. All of these things made me more than a little weird.
Martin Luther King Jr. had the dream that all people would be able to live together in peace, and he was murdered for it. His dream has not been murdered, but we still have a ways to go before we fulfill it. We are not yet to the mountaintop, but we can see it in the distance.