Image from The King Papers Project at Stanford University  (

Image from The King Papers Project at Stanford University

50 years. That is long in the life of our young country.  That is brief in the life of a human. My father was 17 years old.  I was just 11 years from being born.

I don’t know what Dr. King would say about now, 50 years later. I don’t know if he’d be proud or horrified. Both probably.  Proud of commercials that show interracial marriages and horrified at the hatred that still pours forth toward that idea and the people who live it.  Proud of children on school buses together, knowing skin tone but not living by it and horrified by the teaching of parents and society that makes that rarer, even now, by age 14.  Hope and horror.

The promissory note still chills my spine as much or more than the “content of the character” climax.  The paradox of living in a country founded on the very premise that freedom is essential, that tyranny by a government or another person is one of the ways harm comes to our spirits, that religion is laudable, necessary but not in our systems of power, of living in a country where some people cannot marry who they love, where some are killed because of the pigment in their skin, where some subsist rather than thrive because of inequities in education and opportunity.

Hope and horror.

Perhaps this is the dream, to know these horrors in ourselves and to continue to carry hope that we will change, even when we are weary, even when we know we may not see the fruition, even when it feels like a long climb up the mountain.

50 years later and forever, we still hope.

I would say that we have come a long, long way in our struggle to make justice a reality for all men but we have a long, long way to go before the problem is solved. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

All you writers, if you want to see how to build momentum in a piece, if you want to study how to incorporate complexity of idea while still keeping the language simple and direct, if you want to see how to use repetition and image to build emotion, I definitely recommend you study Dr. King’s speeches.