We celebrate anniversaries to mark time, to reflect on progress year over year. On this 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, Washington celebrates great leaps forward in race relations with the unveiling of the King Memorial, but my reflections leave me wondering if a shell-shocked nation has given up on its dreams for the future.
A generation of dreamers grew up in the Sixties, inspired by leaders who urged us to conquer the frontiers of social inequality and science.
Dr. King had a dream that one day the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners would be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. He inspired the generation who elected Barack Obama.
Gloria Steinem had a dream that one day women would be treated equally with men. She and other leaders of the feminist movement inspired impressionable girls who ultimately broke glass ceilings in corporate boardrooms, laboratories, the military, and government.
President Kennedy had a dream that an American would be the first man to walk on the moon. He inspired a generation of scientists who went on to invent personal computers, the Internet, smartphones, and the biotech industry.
Baby Boomers grew up believing we could do anything if we worked hard and applied our imaginations. Inspired by the passion of great men and women, we made America an economic and moral superpower envied by the rest of the world.
So why is a government controlled by Boomers inspiring nothing but disunity and despair? Why are we electing lawyers who haggle over paying our bills rather than teachers and preachers who dare us to dream? We need leaders who nurture big ideas, both to solve today’s problems–energy dependence, climate change, globalization of the economy, the graying of our population, immigration policy–and to inspire a generation of dreamers who will solve future dilemmas we can’t even imagine.
“We may never again find a leader who is a father to each of us. We cannot wait for a solitary man to breathe fire into our hearts and souls and lead us to the promised land. We need to make our own promises. We need to dream our own dreams. We need to find the passion within ourselves to create the America of our dreams and breathe that fire into our children so that our dreams can become a reality. One father to each son, each son an essential link in a chain, joining America together, one link at a time. Ordinary men can together achieve greatness if driven by sufficient passion.”
That’s a quote from my first novel, The Jinx, words uttered by JJ Alexander, a Republican presidential candidate, a man who campaigned on goals we could achieve together rather than focusing on differences that would doom government to unproductive bickering. We haven’t found a real Republican leader like him yet–I once thought John McCain might be the man until his political base tilted him rightward–but I have a dream.
Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
I have a dream that one day a groundswell of ordinary Americans will unite to elect moderate candidates–through a new political party, if necessary–sworn to negotiate bipartisan solutions to our most pressing problems.
I have a dream that these visionary leaders will again make education a national priority and inspire a generation to conquer new frontiers in science.
I have a dream that Americans will invest in alternative energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, stall climate change, and create jobs.
I have a dream that rational legislators will retool a broken health care system, enacting a single-payer health insurance program for all Americans with sliding scale premiums and reasonable limits on desperate measures to extend life, taking employers out of the health insurance business and cutting spending on end-of-life care few people want.
Please share your dreams for America’s future in the comments below. Begin your reply with “I Have A Dream…” and let the legacy of Martin Luther King inspire you.
And if you have the inclination, take a look at my novels. My heroes may be ordinary (Ben Kravner, a young lawyer, in The Jinx) or larger than life (Frank Paine, an ex-Hollywood action star-turned-FBI agent, in King of Paine), but they and much of their supporting cast are intelligent, passionate men and women who grapple with personal flaws and unusual obstacles to ultimately improve their world. They curse and crack wise, make terrible mistakes that cost themselves and others dearly, yet their idealism shines through. They dare to dream.