On the 30th Anniversary of the 20th Anniversay of MLK's March on Washington

When I was a child, I remembered the news the morning that Martin Luther King, Jr was shot. Before school, our morning ritual often included watching Captain Kangaroo, if we had time after breakfast. But I remember, as and eight year old, on the morning of April 4th, 1968, it was news. No Captain Kangaroo. The stories on the news were about the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

My grandfather was a preacher and church planter. I remember as a kid hearing him preach, and even as a kid, I wasn't bored. He usually made people laugh. He was jolly. And when Christmas came around, I wondered whether or not my grandpa was the real Santa Claus.

And I knew that Martin Luther King was a preacher, too. He had that in common with my grandfather. If my grandfather was kind, loving, and trying to help people know God. I knew that Martin Luther King was trying to do the same things. So when he was killed, I remember feeling shocked. I wondered how could anyone kill a nice man that was trying to help people and tell them about God.

In 1963, I was too small to toddle my way to Washington D.C.  But when I was twenty-two years old and in seminary at Eastern Baptist Seminary in Philadelphia, I was old enough to go to the 20th anniversary of the march. I had been bless with a good friend, Mike Minch and a wonderful professor, Ronald Sider. Mike and I were working as teacher's aids for Ron. Ron was on the planning committee for the anniversary march, and were invited to go along. We had to have our social security numbers researched for crimes or other red flags. We were cleared then to go back stage at the event. We met civil right leaders, politicians, and musicians. I remember meeting John Perkins there, Peter, Paul and Mary, Graham Nash, several church leaders from around the world, and a number of politicians who have passed out of the national limelight.

It was a tiring day of speeches, music, hope and excitement.

It was the closest I got to walking along the path of Martin Luther King. While I had not clearly envisioned the future, I was hopeful. I anticipated a day when The Dream would be realized. In fact, I thought I had sensed that day dawning.

But now I wonder. Our attitudes, not toward the law, but toward people when it comes to immigration, are attitudes of distrust, even anger. The numbers of people from any economic class who continue to be profiled because of their apparent skin color. The continual listing of dangerous people which no longer includes just criminals, but now includes a religion - Muslims. I think about the ways in which we continue to break our communities up into smaller fragments, and those fragments in smaller fragments, and then the numbers of families who rarely see each other. Sometimes it seems as if The Dream does not even enter into our own homes.

It has been three decades since I commemorated the 20th anniversary of the march on Washington. And I do know, that even though I did not clearly articulate where we would be in 2013, I do feel as if I have let myself and others down by falling short of the mark.

But I do rejoice in the small victories. My children have friends who cover the range of gender identities, disabled and differently-abled,  the range of ethnicities, and religions. I see the ease with which they welcome others. I think we as a community are doing something right. I know much of this comes from the foundations of our faith, but also so much of it comes from the quality of our neighbors, their teachers and coaches. Maybe we are moving forward, but slower that I had hoped thirty years ago.

I guess the trouble with marches on Washington is that the march itself becomes the event. The 250,000 people gathered there today. But the event that should catch our attention and focus our efforts is, to go back to our homes and make a difference there. As Martin Luther King said,

"Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends -- so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Live the Dream.