Our six year old son is full of dreams. B. plans to be CEO of the LEGO Corporation, and has grand visions for the sets he will create and launch with Steve Jobs like panache. I’m glad to see he also has plans for a free summer youth enrichment programs sponsored by LEGO. I love to hear about his dreams, and not just for his infectious enthusiasm. I know the power of dreams to inspire hard work and help make good choices along the way. Long after my childhood dream of playing left field for the Boston Red Sox had given way to other ambitions, high expectations and hard work motivated by having dreams were well entrenched.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a prodigious writer and speaker; the collection of his work I have runs well over 1,000 pages. Yet his I Have a Dream Speech is the one that stands out years later, speaking powerfully to us today. Even in this speech, he doesn’t introduce the line “I have a dream” until over 1,000 words into the speech. But we don’t remember too much about that beginning. It’s the clear vision of a better future, captured with the powerful “I have a dream” phrase, that sticks with us.
What dreams would Dr. King pursue today? The day he was assassinated, he was in Memphis to support a sanitation worker’s strike, part of his increasing focus on economic issues. Clearly there would be plenty of economic issues for him to focus on today.
But B.’s vision for his future has me thinking about the power of dreams. My wish for today is that all children can dream big dreams, and have a reasonable chance to nurture and realize their dreams as they grow into adulthood. Much progress has been made, but decades after Dr. King’s famous speech, too much stands in the way of all children having an equal chance to realize their dreams. Yesterday’s Boston Globe reported that roughly 1/3 of Boston high school students are chronically absent, and thus vulnerable to dropping out. Dreams aren’t going to be realized in the 21st century without an education, thus the lingering issues of educational achievement gaps must be tackled. I have to agree with those that say the achievement gap is the civil rights issue of our time.
Today I dream that one day, children of all backgrounds will dream big dreams. I dream they will have parents, educators and mentors by their side to nurture those dreams, and help them develop the skills needed to turn dreams into reality. I dream that we as a nation will live up to our aspiration to be a land of truly equal opportunity, as well as equal rights. Such a dream is worthy of that powerful vision shared by Dr. King back in 1963.