This is a meditative reflection on the courageous and empowering “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King. Although the speech was made specifically towards racial injustice, I have always viewed it’s intent as incredibly relevant to any social and political injustice of the time. How now, is America torn by economic injustice with an over-whelming majority of its citizens buried with student debt. His words still give me hope and resonate with a pulse in my mind when I am feeling that change is impossible. (the italics are Dr. King’s words, the remainder is original)
The Student in debt is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. This was a land that she had such aspirations for—a land that she had dreams of cultivating and enriching with creativity and liveliness. Instead this land is barren and inaccessible. She was proud to have a responsibility to this land, but now she finds herself unable to fulfill her truest role. Her feet and wings are stuck in a cement block of debt.
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But what did they have in mind when they promised “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?” Was it a happiness of corporate America: cubicles, e-mails, paychecks, 401Ks, and benefit packages? Or was it the happiness of pursuing your own dreams and honing the creative skills that would be your best gift to the world around you? Did they mean for Liberty to be the opportunity to attend college and grow an education without the assistance of job placement or the time to build a career of your choosing and passions? Education is a True Liberty I do agree, but the cost of knowledge in no way promotes a pursuit of happiness or a just Life as promised. Today’s life is one of fear and uncertainty. The cost of education is impossible.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her college graduates are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” I ask now: where is America hoarding the funds we were promised? The top 1% live plentifully while others scrap by. More young adults and adults with college degrees are living in poverty than ever before. When will the greed in this country smoulder to the ashes it deserves to be? The middle-class and now lower middle class along with the growing class in poverty demand to rise up to a true middle class again where the majority of the wealth is disbursed amongst the majority of her people. This should not be up for debate in a true democracy.
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. Don’t we all deserve security of health and home?
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. Now is the time for us to bring our struggles to the public forum. Now is the time to speak on the Congress floor and for every American to be represented within those walls.
We cannot walk alone.
Trust me you are not alone and soon our shared experience of stifling student debt will boil over and someone will have to confess to these crimes–the crime of privatizing student loans and allowing unregulated businesses to bring interest rates to an unmanageable high.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
Live your dream and let the rest roll off your back. Be the creative you were meant to be with no apologies.
We cannot turn back.
Resist the temptation to allow your student debt to make significant decisions in your life. We received an education for accessibility and opportunities not for limitations and stop signs. We cannot forget that.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
Create a new reality and a new tomorrow because that’s what artists do.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Celebrate Black History Month with this Generous Leader who paved the way for so many. RIP: