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Our view: "We cannot walk alone"

A voice of calm and reason during chaotic, troubled times, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for only 16 1/2 minutes that hazy, warm, summer day in 1963 at the height of the March on Washington.

King marcher
Delores Williams of Duluth carries a portrait of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during a march through Duluth. (File / News Tribune)

A voice of calm and reason during chaotic, troubled times, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for only 16½ minutes that hazy, warm, summer day in 1963 at the height of the March on Washington.

His address -- often referred to as his "I Have a Dream" speech -- came after years of civil unrest, of Americans of color reaching for the equal rights envisioned for them in the Declaration of Independence, of water cannons, riot police and other efforts to turn back desegregation, and of peaceful protest vs. sometimes-violent resistance.

King's speech, as brief as it was, packed enough power to lead to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It helped make the U.S. a more-inclusive, more-tolerant nation. It helped us become one.

This isn't a suggestion that we're free of racism or other problems now. Of course not. Prejudice remains a persistent parasite that shows itself in subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways.

We're not free of hate or violence, either, as the shootings in Arizona so coldly reminded us this month.

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Nearly half a century later, King's speech, unfortunately, remains relevant. It remains a reminder about how we're supposed to treat each other -- and that we can rely on each other.

The speech followed a march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, a march of religious leaders, labor leaders and black organizers, a march serenaded with the songs of Joan Baez and Duluth native Bob Dylan.

An annual march in Duluth tomorrow, from the Washington Center to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, similarly will feature community leaders, music and words of encouragement.

Whether we go, surely, all of us -- every single one of us -- can find at least 16½ minutes to read again, and to consider anew, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They're reprinted on today's page, and they're seared into the consciousness of our nation.

IF YOU GO
Activities in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day continue today and conclude on the holiday, Monday, Jan. 17, 2011.
Today

  • 4 p.m. today -- Community worship service at St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church, 530 N. Fifth Ave. E. Monday

  • 7 a.m. -- Free community breakfast at First United Methodist Church, 230 E. Skyline Parkway; during the meal there will be a broadcast of Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker's speech
  • 10:30 a.m. -- Participants in Duluth's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march gather at the Washington Center; the march winds through downtown and concludes at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
  • 11:45 a.m. -- Duluth's annual Martin Luther King Jr. rally at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center; featured speaker is Robin Washington, editor of the News Tribune and president of the Duluth African-American Men's Group
  • 7 p.m. -- Labor Movie Night in Wellstone Hall of the Duluth Labor Temple, 2002 London Road, featuring a screening of, "At the River I Stand" For more details go to mlk-duluth.org or call (218) 722-1766.

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