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It is now more than four and a half decades since Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous speech “I have a dream”. This seems like a long time and many and no wonder why one would pose to ask whether the speech made by King in 1963 is relevant in the 21st century. Has the speech withstood the test of time? In his speech, King spoke of a nation full of promise and expectation. He prophesied that America and the whole world would make great strides towards making life for everyone bearable. His speech was not without condemnation for authorities. He felt that those who held power were not doing what masses expected of them. So, weighing the situation then and now reveals lots of similarities. It must thus, be admitted from this juncture that King’s speech made about 48 years ago is as relevant today as it was in 1963. During his speech, King spoke of civil rights, racial profiling, economic opportunities, religion and a number of other issues that affect the lives of the human race. Today, though some progress has been made towards addressing certain issues, there is much left to be desired.
Rights and Equal Opportunities
Vincent Harding (473) notes that King’s vision more than “rights “or “equal opportunities”. He had an excellent vision for all Americans where equal rights and/or opportunities would not be an issue of concern. What would concern Americans would be hunger diseases and extreme poverty. Today, some classes of Americans feel that there is a lot of inequality in almost every sector of the American economy. Employment opportunities are not shared as they should and some communities are becoming progressively poor while others are becoming even richer. King hoped that this would not be the case especially after all the activism that took place during his time.
Such factors as racial profiling were part of King’s speech. Literature shows that King at some point in time asked his fellow black men to love their white countrymen more than they loved themselves. By doing this, the fight against racism would be half won. Racism, according to King, was a great obstacle to America’s aim to build a cohesive nation. In the 1960’s, activists would speak of racism with special reference to Asian, Hispanic, colored and blacks. Presently, the tune has just changed a bit. When the issue of racism is brought up for discussion what come up into people’s minds is the black population and those who are Muslim adherents. There are those who are victimized for “driving while black” and “flying while Muslim” (Powell n.p). What this means is that while King made his speech way back in 1963 he spoke of racism and hoped that it would someday come to an end. His prophesy was intelligent but to date racism is a live issue that haunts Americans.
The kind of racism of the yesteryears has been replaced by a more subtle form. In America, those who confess the Islam faith are targeted by security authorities especially when they have to use planes. Security forces have in the recent past been harassing Muslims more so those of Arab origin in what they disguise as war against terrorism. Muslim air passengers undergo through rigorous and sometimes humiliating and dehumanizing frisking at airports security check points. Such checks are not subjected to their counterparts who are of Caucasian origin. On the same vein, literature is replete with evidence showing that African Americans suffer more at the hands of traffic officers. Blacks are more often than not charged for petty traffic offenses which other drivers are allowed to get away with.
Other examples of human rights violations and inequalities that would well fit into Kings famous speech include but are not limited to: torture of Arab terrorist suspects at Guantanamo bay in Cuba; the ever rising number of black people living below the poverty line in American ghettos, unequal employment opportunities in public offices and poor wages paid to sanitary and other related workers (Harding 469).
In the 1960’s activists like King, Malcolm X and others would speak against and condemn America’s military involvement in Vietnam, Central America, South America and Africa. Today things are different and if King was to make a speech he would also touch on America’s militarism; but this time, in his print out, he would replace Vietnam with Iraq and Afghanistan. King questioned America’s moral authority to take military action against other countries. In the 1960’s activists condemned Vietnam attack acknowledging that innocent women and children were going through a hard time every time America launched attacks on a foreign country. Like King, activists in the present day propose diplomacy and dialogue to take the place of violent solutions to solving problems.
King had a dream that activists in modern world cling to. A lot of people, both in America and beyond, are convinced that America lacks moral authority to attack other nations. Activist of the old and those of today argue that lots of suffering has to be borne by innocent civilians every time military action is meted against countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Just like many Americans, King felt that nonviolence means were best suited to solve any kind of crisis as in this way the innocent do not suffer (Powell n.p).
King’s speech condemned America’s act that compromised universal objectives of free trade. In his speech, he noted that certain policies made by the American government made it difficult to achieving a global status where trade restrictions would be eliminated. Trade barriers, as noted by King, served only to benefit America at the expense of its trading partners. His vision was that someday trade barriers of all kinds would be done away with so that all men would trade freely for the benefit of all mankind.
Again, King’s vision has not been fulfilled to date. World Trade Organization (WTO) is involved with coming up with modalities of freeing trade among member countries. However, countries like the United States and other powerful countries like the United Kingdom frustrates the vision and mission of WTO of establishing free trade. During the most recent Doha world of talks, these two nations were on the opposing side of policies that would see developing countries in Africa and Asia reaps benefits of unrestricted trade. Apart from opposing what had been agreed upon during the 2008 round of talks, America has been accused of going against other trade agreements.
For instance, during the same year, it was agreed and ratified by all countries that all WTO member nations should not subsidize certain agricultural products as doing this would level the ground for competition. One of the agricultural products that were to be unsubsidized was cotton. While developing countries heeded this call, America went ahead and allocated $3 billion subsidies to its cotton farmers. Obviously what this means is that American farmers have an upper hand in the world cotton markets. They (American farmers) can afford to lower their prices significantly without incurring losses. Farmers from other parts are disadvantaged by this and may in the long run be forced out of the market (Powell n.p).
Religion and morality
Concerning religion and morality, King had noted that Americans had advanced technology wise and were now guiding missiles while misguiding men. He felt that a balance had to be stroke between morality and technological developments. All technologies, according to King, were supposed to help people move closer to being morally upright but not the contrary.
Four and a half decades later technology has gone a notch higher and whether it is being used to improve human morality is a matter that everyone can discern. Technologies have been invented but most of these serve to contaminate human morality. Weapons of mass destructions have been invented at a rate that is incomprehensible. Scientific discoveries are coming up each and every day and most of these go against the teachings of mainstream religions or human dignity (Powell n.p).
Poverty and workers rights
King’s final speech was made in Memphis before a crowd of two thousand blacks who had come to support the plight of garbage workers (Harding 473). It is noted that King had skipped another meeting at Washington D.C which was supposed to address the issues facing the poor at the capital. He had been advised by his security detail not to attend Memphis meeting but he would hear none of this. He argued that he wanted to share in the tribulations of workers who were going through a tough time due to the fact that they received peanuts despite the important role they played. Precisely, this narration shows that King had the interests of workers at heart. In his speech he incorporated this fact and hoped that the interests of all the workers and the poor would be addressed by future American governments.
His dream of having the predicament of workers being addressed has not so far been realized. King’s vision was not only for America but for all mankind. Industrial actions among workers and escalating poverty are common phenomenon in all parts of the globe today.
More than 48 years since Martin Luther King made his famous “I have a dream’ speech, issues that he addressed still haunt America and the whole world. If this civil right activist lived today, he would no doubt make a similar speech. He addressed civil rights issues, economic imperialism and militarism and hoped that someday all will be well. It must be admitted that 4 decades later some progress has been made but a lot remains to be desired.