There are dreamers and there are doers and sometimes there are dreamers who become doers.
Recently, two experienced rock climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgesen, had a dream. They wanted to do something no one had ever done before. They wanted to free climb the 3,000 foot rock face of El Capitan, a vertical rock formation located in Yosemite National Park. Free climbing means using only your fingers, hands, feet and physical strength to make the assent. No other equipment (except for ropes in case of a fall) is used in making the climb.
After 19 arduous days, the climbers ascended the summit and that which had never been done before was accomplished.
Caldwell and Jorgesen had a dream, climbed their mountain and showed incredible physical courage.
There is another kind of courage, however, that requires having a dream and climbing a mountain. That courage is moral courage.
Martin Luther King, whose birthday we remember and celebrate this month, had that kind of moral courage. He had a dream and he climbed a mountain.
From the mid-1950’ through the end of the 1960’s, the United States underwent a social revolution which it had not seen since the days of the Civil War. Dr. King was there for all most all of it.
It began in Birmingham, Alabama, where a single person, Rosa Parks, refused to follow the laws of the day which required black people to give up her seat to a white person on a city-owned bus. That led to a city-wide boycott of the Birmingham bus service and was the first time Martin Luther King was introduced to our country as a civil rights leader.
Dr. King had a dream that he expressed before a national audience as he stood before the Lincoln Memorial on a hot afternoon in August 1963.
His dream was simple and yet profound for our country. His dream was that some day our country would live up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and that his four little children would be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
Many dark days for the civil rights movement came before and after Dr. King shared his dream. Church bombings, cross burnings, physical intimidation and even murder was used to slow down the movement, but nothing could stop an idea whose time had come. Civil rights legislation guaranteeing the right to vote, to equal access to public accommodations and other fundamental rights came to pass. Schools began to desegregate. Most of all, the country began to change as more and more people came to share in the dream.
On the night before his death, Dr. King spoke these words : I’ve been to the mountain top… And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But, I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
Dr Martin Luther King was murdered the next day. He did not live to see the promised land. In many ways, we, as a nation, are still seeking it. But in having a dream and in having the moral courage to try and bring that dream to reality, as both a dreamer and a doer, Dr. King led us all up the mountain where today we can still see the promised land, one in which the promises of the Declaration of Independence live in the lives of all our people regardless of the color of their skin.
Bill Peterson, Vice President Development & Foundation