This morning I attended our city's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. as I normally do, both as a principal and as a citizen, and I always leave with a feeling of hope. Gospel music and student speeches inspire me, and listening to Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech yet another time affects me deeply.
Thank God for Martin Luther King Jr. and for his dream. I grew up in a small town in southeastern Ohio where in it and the surrounding area both my mother and father's sides of the family have lived for generations. At one point my father shared with me that my Grandfather once belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and that helps illustrate the conservative, and yes, racist atmosphere that permeated my childhood.
The 1960's, even in southern Ohio, was a transition time of great emotion, as many challenges rocked our nation. I vividly remember the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and can recall thinking, as a youngster and teenager at the time, what was happening to the world as I knew it.
I remember Vietnam War protests, violence at the Democratic convention, the Kent State shootings, and the widespread television images of "Burn Baby Burn" in the inner city riots. All this as the country was united in the space race to put the first man on the moon, the greatest oxymoronic achievement at the time. We were all united in beating the Russians to the moon and yet we were killing our greatest leaders and burning our cities in protests.
So many of these thoughts flowed through my mind this morning as I listened to Dr. King's speech of hopes and dreams for the future. What courage it must have taken for Dr. King and all of the followers to Washington to speak such powerful words when the country was so deeply and significantly torn apart, in race and in politics.
And so, I am still so thankful today that we have not forgotten Dr. King's life, his mission and his Dream. You see, as a poor Appalachian child who can still remember citizens in our small town treating us poorly as the lower class family we were, I believed that Dr. King was not only speaking on behalf of black people, but as the voice of all of us about whom society seemed not to care.
Later now, as a high school principal and as a person, I still believe in his Dream and in the dreams of others. I believe that every child in America must have a dream, that every person in life must also have a dream. For a life without a dream is a life without hope. And a life without a dream is, in the words of Langston Hughes, a "broken winged bird that cannot fly." And we need today, perhaps as we did in the 1960s, our children to "fly."
What is my dream? It is everything that Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, a Dream where all people in the world can hold hands together without the separation of race, sexuality, politics, or nationality.
Our country, unfortunately, is still deeply divided politically, socially, and culturally and the schism it seems is growing deeper in some areas. We are paralyzed by inaction because of political views, and at times, seem as divided as we were in the 1960s, just over different issues.
To honor Dr. King I have reflected today on some of my dreams and hopes, as a principal and as a person.
Specifically, I have a dream . . .
That one day our schools will once again be safe from school shootings. Why these horrible actions are becoming commonplace is abhorrent, and we must do everything we can as a society and as a nation to keep our children safe where they should be safe, in our schools.
I have a dream . . .
That our politics will cease being so divisive so that our Congress can solve some of the polarizing forces of inaction that plague us today. Bill Clinton said it best, "Just because we are different does not mean we have to disagree, and just because we disagree does not mean we have to dislike." A valuable lesson for our children, ourselves, and our country's leaders. Perhaps we can solve some of our educational, political, and economic problems by practicing acceptance of others from whom we are different.
I have a dream . . .
That one day our country will support educational reform that truly tears down the barriers of economics and politics that adversely influence every child in America receiving a world-class education, whether they are in school in southern Ohio, Mississippi, or inner city Cleveland. If legislators truly want to improve schools then ask the experts-- educators, students, and parents, how to improve rather than enact unfunded educational mandates with political motives.
If this country can afford to build and then tear down multimillion dollar stadiums every 10 years and pay professional athletes individual contracts of $200 million then we can surely ensure a quality life and a quality education for every child in America. Every night children in southeastern Ohio and across America go to bed hungry and receive an education that is not on par with affluent suburbs, and yet, where is the campaign to right these inequities. I was one of those children, and the people who made the significant difference in my life, who influenced my decision to attend college as a first-generation student, and who inspired me to be a teacher and supported and encouraged me in the face of neglect and abuse were TEACHERS. I am an educator today because I learned at an early age that school was the best 8 hours of my day, and I wanted to be that person for another child.
I have a dream . . .
That one day every classroom in America will have a teacher who "secures students' hearts" before they try to reach their brains.
I have a dream . . .
That every person will take time, even if it is just a little time, to get to know one other human being, no matter how chance the moment, to understand, as Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted us to do, that we can all join hands and walk together in caring and compassion, passion and persistence, for making this world, this day, this moment, better for someone else. We indeed are all more alike than we are different; we just have to take the time to see how. The video Take a Seat, Make a Friend is one of the most powerful testimonials of this.
I have a dream. . .
and I am eternally grateful, that Martin Luther King Jr. did also, and that he was not afraid to share it with others. It is our job and our calling to keep his Dream and the dreams of all of our children alive.