"I have a dream."
Those are the words I physically heard, consciously perceived, and deeply felt on this otherwise average Monday.
No, my classmates and I were not watching a video of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his famous speech from the March on Washington of 1963. Instead, we were gathered in Viewpoint School's Carlson Family Theater to listen to the wise words of civil rights pioneer Dr. Clarence B. Jones, in culmination of a month-long, school-wide celebration of Black History Month.
Through a brief introduction from Headmaster Dr. Robert J. Dworkoski, students and faculty alike learned that the following assembly was set to be nothing short of extraordinary. Dr. Jones is not only an esteemed professor at Stanford University, but he is a living, breathing, civil rights legend -- a man who not only lived through the movement, but proved key in the development of America into a more egalitarian state. Dr. Jones was not only one of Dr. King's closest personal friends, but the man who smuggled the scraps of paper out of a jail cell in Alabama that became Dr. King's "The Letter from Birmingham Jail," and drafted perhaps the most famous speech in American history, Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech. If you're feeling overwhelmed by his resume right about now, imagine my state of astonishment -- I lived through it, and I still cannot believe that my classmates and I had the opportunity to listen to such an influential figure in history.
After Dr. Dworkoski had finished his opening remarks, the anticipation of the audience peaked. As Dr. Jones walked up to the microphone, his heavy steps revealed a glimpse into his experienced soul -- one that was sure to enlighten us all. But as he began speaking, Dr. Jones' vitality was obvious. Simply put, he had, sonically, the most powerful voice I had ever heard. Period. But his words were not just powerful through his engaging inflections. In fact, his anecdotes and ultimate messages reminded me of a truly remarkable Maya Angelou quote: "Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."
As the melody of Dr. Jones' wise voice channeled through the theater's speakers, a myriad of experiences and stories were shared. From intimate stories about Dr. King to anecdotes about his experience at a Columbia University chemistry class taught by Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, Dr. Jones' voice, message, and presence were simply captivating. Dr. Jones told us that Dr. King used to refer to him as his "Winter Time Soldier" -- a friend who stuck with him through positive experiences and negative ones. This particular anecdote holds a special place in my memory not only because of the coincidental winter rain at the time, but also because it showed that Dr. Jones stood and currently stands for much more than racial equality. He stands for friendship. He stands for trust. He stands for belief in each other. He stands for "color irrelevance," not color blindness. And most importantly, he stands for the sanctity and possibility of the realization of dreams.
In a world in which hate-filled politics and growing inter-class tensions rampantly fill article word-counts, a message like the one delivered by Dr. Jones was and is necessary. And when listening to Dr. Jones' impromptu recital of the beginning of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech, it felt as if we were all there, back in 1963, hearing those wise words as if they were spoken for the very first time. But this time, it was not Dr. King telling thousands of people that it is perfectly acceptable to dream for whites and blacks to share hands; it was Dr. Clarence Jones, talking to a few hundred high school students and faculty members, stating that if the Americans of all races, religions, and backgrounds work collectively and peacefully, creating a better world is certainly possible.
On Monday, February 27, 2012, I felt like I met Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, that vision would never truly be realized, but trust me when I say that his dream was heard loud and clear.