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State of the Dream Ten Years Ago: The Fortieth Anniversary Commemoration of MLK's "I Have a Dream" Speech

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Focusing back on problems in this country, he continued, "A revolution is also needed at the ballot boxes in this country; only 38 percent voted in 2002. True election reform begins with voter turnout." King envisioned a fifteen-month rolling mobilization to register voters to produce the largest possible turnout, increasing the present level by 10 to 15 percent: "create a political earthquake to refocus the government on human needs. He then quoted his father: "A voteless people is a powerless people.'"  

On the issue of women, King noted that although 52 percent of the population comprises women, the ratio of women in Congress is only 14 percent. "The needs of women and children are neglected to subsidize tax cuts. We need more women at the 2004 polls," he continued. "Women shouldn't try to be like men. They should provide a different kind of leadership."

King envisioned "a new birth of a new American and a new world, in which we live together in peace and harmony. God has already blessed America. Now it is time for us to bless God."  

King concluded by quoting his father's famous words "Justice will roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream." He ended by alluding to a Margaret Mead pronouncement: "The journey begins with a few steps; it takes a few to create change."

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"This day would not be possible without Coretta Scott King," continued Malika Sanders. Mrs. King began by recalling, "Forty years ago today I looked around at the largest nonviolent demonstration in history." Today's demonstration she qualified as "the most diverse nonviolent demonstration ever held in the nation's capital."  

Having heard her husband quoted by speakers and writers from all over the world, she continued, bemoaning the "bounced check" written to her people, a motif introduced and sustained in the 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. "We refuse to believe there are insufficient funds in that great vault [read: the U.S. treasury]. We bring the same cries for world peace: "there can be no peace without justice, no justice without peace.' We must meet physical force with soul force.  

"Nonviolence must become the foundation of America's foreign policy," she said. "Let us not be intimidated by those who criticize our dissent. If peace is our goal, then nonviolence must be our way.  

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"Let us dare to dream of a peace humanity has never known," she concluded. "No hunger, decent shelter, education, and health care. When arms are replaced by renewal, we will light the way to the end of the nightmare of poverty."  

Having reminded us of the segregation that still flourished in 1963, now turning to the subject of women's contributions, former Congressman John Lewis, one of the organizers of the historic 1963 march, quoted Kwame Nkruma: "Judge the political maturity of a place by the political maturity of its women."  

The national president of NOW, Kim Gandy, next predicted, "We will win in 2004 and all following elections." She deplored the right-wing assault on "the rights we fought for and won: equal educational opportunity, leave to care for sick children, judgment according to ability, not anatomy, protection against hate crimes, and equal pay.  

"I'm proud of being left, tired of being left out," she said. "When we get together, we'll turn into a two by four -- que sÃ, se puede."  

The Reverend Al Sharpton next noted that the bounced check MLK alluded to has "bounced again and is now marked "stop payment.'" He deplored the $5 billion a month this country spends on Iraq and Afghanistan, "with nothing left for health, education, and state budgets."  

He further deplored the "dream busting" policies of the Bush administration: opposing affirmative action, recalling an election, putting "terminators" in office, hiding hatred behind the Ten Commandments. To begin the Exodus into the Promised Land--and biblical imagery was apparent in many speeches, as were various biblical and other perspectives on the significance of the number forty--we must "address our burning Bush," said Sharpton. "It stands for Enron and big business, not for labor and children. We didn't come this far to turn around now!"  

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"Hope was born again in 1963," Rev. Jesse Jackson next informed the crowds. "We cast out fear, we became audacious, and all the world sang "We Shall Overcome.' Lincoln's promise of emancipation has been broken. Congress broke the promises of the Thirteenth through Fifteenth Amendments.  

"More black men are in jail than in college in every state," he continued. "They are racially number one in HIV infection, cancer, school expulsions, and jail. This country has betrayed its allies on its way into war, making them old and irrelevant.

"We must go South today, our zone of challenge," said Jackson. "with the highest concentration of poor people, waste dumps, opposition to labor and civil rights, and hostility to the poor.  

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for Opednews.com since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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