Martin Luther King, assassinated at a tender 39 years of age, continues to catch our hearts and minds with his I have a Dream speech and his brief lifetime of work, calling to us to stand up for social justice and overcome racial discrimination wherever it exists in our land. He also called for service, an idea that brings honor, satisfaction.

Sunday radio was saturated with fine words about MLK – and his own words stung. We’re out of touch with the angst of the Civil Rights movement here. Our lovely city-country lifestyle in Sonoma County doesn’t include race riots or in-your-face discrimination against black residents – but talk to a few Latinos and well, that’s another story. Yes, there are occasional attacks on Petaluma’s Latino residents, based on nothing but ethnic background. But today is MLK’s day. His message mirrors much of what we believe the American Dream is about – justice for all.

I appreciated Obama’s comments today on the heels of the terrible Tucson shootings. “We must learn to speak to each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds,” he said. Wish Obama would be the orator MLK was, the leader. But I give him cred for a solid effort.
At a time when violent rhetoric is rampant as more and more people purchase guns, MLK’s message of peace is more relevant than ever.

Watch him deliver his famous speech here or read the whole thing and analysis of it here.

Here’s a big chunk I love: “I have a dream that my 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.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village 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! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Wow.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.