I recently re-listened to one of the most famous speeches in our country’s history. It is the speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1963. Known largely as the “I Have a Dream” speech, it is so much more. It is to me a sad reminder that we have failed in many ways.
What if you asked every member of Congress about that speech, asked them if they have ever listened from beginning to end, and asked them what is the most important aspect of the speech to them? What do you think they would say?
My guess, most would say they have listened from beginning to end, and some of those would be telling the truth. Some would also say that we have made so much progress since then. They would say we don’t have segregation any more.
Really? I don’t think so.
Here is what I took away from my most recent listening applied to reality in 2018:
- The “chains of discrimination” are still real (155 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and 55 years after the speech)
- “The riches of freedom and the security of justice” are still not fully realized
- “The tranquilizing drug of gradualism” is over-prescribed
Having worked in change management for much of my career, I feel that our country’s leaders have never taken full accountability for enabling inalienable rights for all citizens. We can point to the passage of laws (Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example) but laws don’t change attitudes.
Leadership does. Relentless leadership. Leadership that makes examples of every non-compliance. Leadership that sticks with the problem until it is gone.
So, beginning with this upcoming election, I plan to ask the candidates in any way I can:
- Do you believe that we have true equality for all citizens of this country?
- Since you want to be a leader of this country, and this is the promise of the US Constitution, what is your personal plan to assure that we don’t just move closer to equality, but that we achieve equality in our lifetime?
We need to insist that each and every candidate takes some ownership. Not for further legislation, but for leadership by example. I ask you now, more than ever , to make sure you have a standard that earns your vote. Nothing less than a commitment to equality, and a demonstration of that commitment. Until our politicians are willing to do so, and stand up against the ongoing discrimination in this country, it will not happen.
My dream is that my friend Victorio Milian doesn’t have to write “And no one called the police on us” as part of what makes a family outing a good one. No law abiding citizen should have to even consider that.