To: Organizers of the March on Washington (2013)
From: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Re: Thoughts on the 50th Anniversary Commemoration
Fifty years ago, I told America about my "dream". It seems that the unwitting cabal of pseudo historians, corporate interests, and even those who I spoke to on that day, have worked in tragic solidarity to truncate the "dream" into the cause that I lived and died.
Ironically, "I Have a Dream" was the name that popular culture gave the speech. I spoke that day to discuss the condition of the Negro and ostensibly the condition of America.
It has been almost lost in the bowels of civil rights antiquity that before I got to the "dream" I also stated:
"In a sense we have come to our Nation's Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great 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, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed to the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check; a check that has come back marked insufficient funds."
This is not to say there has been no progress since I gave the speech 50 years ago. Those who feel the historic election of President Barack Obama is an extension of the "dream" humble me.
No American president did more for civil rights than Lyndon Johnson. But when his "Great Society" was forced to take a back seat to the war in Vietnam, my conscience would no longer allow me to remain silent.
I could not be silent then nor could I be silent now as predator drones, which have become a hallmark of America's tax dollars abroad, have killed untold numbers of children whose only crime was to live in an area we deem as an enemy.
I could not be silent as Wall Street has been determined as too big to fail, while the poor, who represent the largest and most diverse segment of America, sees the greasy economic tightrope in which they must tread being systematically cut by corporate interests and the elected officials who have taken an oath to represent them.
Too often it is overlooked that I was assassinated in an attempt to support sanitation workers in Memphis that cut short my own forthcoming "Poor People's Campaign."
Since my death, productivity has doubled, but the minimum wage no longer keeps pace. Had the minimum wage kept pace with productivity, it would currently stand at $16.50. I hope this will be mentioned at your upcoming celebration.
I pray you remember that 1963 was a year where hope and hostility were intertwined. Fifty years later, America remains caught in an inescapable network of mutuality that's tied to a single garment of destiny.
The march will be a success, however, if you conclude not by going to my memorial, but instead renewing my call to declare eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
So forgive me if I do not share your exuberance. I appreciate that you would remember the day, but I can't help but feel that your commemoration is for all the wrong reasons. Nothing would please me more if my assumptions were proven inaccurate.
It's not enough to celebrate the "dream" if you forget the reasons that gave rise to it, and ignore the causes today why it remains unfulfilled.