Saturday, September 05, 2015

Speaking Lessons

Norman Rockwell Humanity found at Pinterest

When I was in sixth grade, I had the honor of being chosen for a lead part in our Spring musical called, "Kid's for America". As you can imagine, there was quite a patriotic bend to the production. Beyond the excess of red, white and blue and various medleys  of national anthems there was a line (that somehow ended up in my speaking part) that made a huge impression on me.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, by the content of their character." MLK JR.

Before memorizing this quote, I had very little exposure as to how a person's appearance would impact how other people would treat said person. I recall  my shock when this concept of racism became a clearer reality. Having the chance to speak MLK's words was a great honor for me. I passionately recited MLK's dream at each and every performance with the hope that in the audience re-hearing them would have a change of heart and racism would fall by the wayside with each word that uttered from my lips...

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"I have a dream (Yes, Mr. King your dream has now become mine) that my four little children ( Dr. King has four children? How are they getting along without him?) will one day (TODAY!) live in a nation (Why isn't this already so?) where they will not be judged by the color of their skin (Judgement of appearance is ridiculous - what if someone judged me for my straight long hair and round face?), but by the content of their character. (I hope my character would stand up to such judgement.) 

With all the strength and conviction my sixth grade mind and body could muster, I wanted the judgement of people to stop. Even at that young age, I knew that I was not perfect. I'd done and said things I shouldn't  - and other people did too. So how, could we as imperfect people, judge another person on what they looked like.

While I was aware then that Dr. King had died as a result of his work to end racism in our country, I did not have a full grasp of how racism had impacted our country. Most of my world view at this point had been quite protected, but even so, I knew in my limited capacity that racism needed to stop. It does need to stop.

It would be wonderful to say that Dr. King's dream had become a full living breathing reality in our nation, but we still have some serious work to do. Skin color and physical characteristics do NOT determine the depth or quality of character of a person. The character of a person defines the quality and depth of their character.

My sixth-grade-singing-thespian self caught the performance bug on that tiny cafetorium stage in rural Pennsylvania, but more importantly I learned that I had a voice to speak out for those who did not have the audience I had been afforded. It was my responsibility, if I have any "character" at all - I need to speak out for the benefit of others.

I, thanks to Dr. King, have a dream planted in my heart. 
I have a voice.
I do have a stage - a platform - and a responsibility to speak on and for the benefit of others.
It's time the spotlight shone on ALL people with equality.

Let's make Dr. King's dream a reality.

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