Commentary: After 50 years, is the 'Dream' yet reality?

It seems like all of the nation has been talking about the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "Dream" speech and the March on Washington. The big question at such a milestone anniversary is on everyone's minds, whether or not we dare ask it aloud: Has his dream manifested?

After all, here we are 50 years later, and yet earlier this summer, the nation was riveted to a court case involving the killing of an unarmed boy in a hoodie. We're forced to address the racism in our nation, and we're forced to admit it's still alive and deadly.

The civil rights giant was more than just a man who worked for racial justice. He was a fighter for economic justice. His faith compelled him to speak out, boldly and loudly, for the rights of workers. His very death came while he stood in solidarity with sanitation workers — their signs simply stating, "I am a human being."

How far have we come? I know I've found myself standing at street corners in front of large corporations alongside workers, their hands clutching signs that read, "Soy humano." Their pleas are the same: They want dignity, safe working conditions and living wages.

And then, of course, there are the 11 million people who live and work in our nation who are not even second-class citizens. They are persona non grata, written off as "illegal," so we can justify this treatment rather than deal with the reality before us. What of their dreams? What would Martin say today?

Fifty years ago, the good reverend spoke out against an unjust war, pleading for peace. Today, we wrestle with what war in Syria would mean for our nation. He knew that peace is more than just a prayer. But he also knew it had to begin inside each of us, in our actions here in our own nation (a place where we found ourselves failing miserably), and so he prayed fervently.

A few wars later, we find ourselves in a similar place: praying, marching and fearful of the high costs of war.

So what has become of his dream? Will it always be just that: a dream? Did it die with him, or is it still alive today?

If it were just his dream, we'd lament its shortcomings. But the reason his voice sent chills across the mall that day in 1963 is that the moment the words left his lips, we knew that his dream was ours. The truth is, it was never his dream alone.

The Baptist pastor was simply dreaming the dream that the Jewish peasant had placed in his heart. The same dream the Hebrew prophets envisioned for God's people: the dream of shalom, the dream of God's Kingdom — peace prevailed.

I suppose we've come a long way in 50 years. We've come a long way in 2,000 years. But the dreamers are still dreaming.

God calls us to live this dream — to make it manifest — and to do so, we must work for it, march for it, fight for it, act for it, pray for it, live for it and maybe even die for it. Not all of us can be Jesus or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — but each and every one of us has the power to act.

In a world riddled with racism, injustice, war and broken hearts, we are called to dream. Live the dream!

THE REV. SARAH HALVERSON is the pastor of Fairview Community Church.

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