The world is changing, and the pace of change has quickened. In the brief course of my own lifetime there have been lots of changes, and many of those changes have been positive.
I was born in 1940, in the middle of Hitler’s reign of terror, which took the lives of millions of Jews, homosexuals, handicapped persons and others he and his regime labeled undesirable.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked I was a year old — our nation went to war with separate units for African-American soldiers. Segregation of the races was an insidious and nearly universal fact of life in America. Homosexuals hid ‘in the closet.’
Just 20 years before I was born women finally won the battle for the vote, after decades of struggle. Twenty years – that’s less than the time I’ve served this congregation!
In 1963, when I was 23 teaching at Wellesley High School, John Kennedy was assassinated, and later that same year Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln memorial to deliver his I-have-a-dream speech. He opened by saying, “…today will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”
He said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
Then he thundered the much-quoted line: “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 but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”
King took on the task of fulfilling the dream passed to him from the founders. Last week Barack Obama took our nation one step closer to the completion of the dream when he won the Iowa caucus. I’m not talking partisan politics, I’m referring to the dream of racial justice, the dream of dignity and equality for all persons. He opened his victory speech, “They said this day would never come; they said our sights were set too high…this is a defining moment in our history.’ We hear the echo King’s words in 1963 quoted above.
In 1963, when my daughter Susan was born, the noxious odor of racism permeated every corner of the country. Martin Luther King called us to dream of a better America, to heal the open wound of racism. The more he understood the underlying causes of the disease of racism, the more he saw the inter-connection with poverty—the economic injustice that separates the haves from the have-nots, and the war in Vietnam. It’s all the same package.
The past several years have been a huge disaster for our nation in many ways, but we have reason to hope for a better America, that we will regain our moral footing.
In the world I was born into the idea of television was a far-fetched dream; a rocket ship to the moon was science fiction and the computer wasn’t even on the radar screen. Gay/lesbian rights weren’t even discussed. A lot has changed in my lifetime and I hope to see the day when the dreams I share with King, and with you, will be realized. We have work to do and we need to continue to find ways to share the important task that remains before us.