Reflections on the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King's "Great Revolution" Speech

Jan 18, 2016

Most of us are probably familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech.  But it was a speech that came very late in King's life that some say has particular relevance today.

Celia Jackson is the Director of the International and Intercultural Center at Alverno College. She says we ought to look closely at a sermon King gave at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., just a few days before he was assassinated.  

Jackson says in the speech, often referred to as "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," King provided direction to the civil rights movement by focusing on three particular areas: technology, weaponry and human rights. But Jackson believes his words provide insight and even predictions for the present day."

"He talked about our neighborhood changing," Jackson, says, "from being our neighbor next door, to being a global neighborhood, which, in fact, we do have with the World Wide Web and the Internet."

And while Dr. King was discussing the Vietnam War and human rights infractions of the 1960s, Jackson says his condemnation of violence, poverty, and racial injustice applies to current day gun violence, and educational and racial injustice.

"The lens is a little bit different because the circumstances we're looking at are a little bit different," she explains. "But at the end of the day we still have a high level of inequality, and we have a high level of disparity for people of color in this country."

Jackson suggests that King and others at the time saw this coming. "People really did have an idea on what was possible for us to change and for whatever reason we didn't do that. And here we are today fighting some really big challenges with disparities in our community."

While Jackson feels that Dr. King may be saddened by some developments in this country and in the world, she says that the very point of his speech was to get American society to wake up and act.

"Things are only going to get better if we exercise our voice, if we exercise our collective voice, if we really engage collaboratively with one another, and just kind of let down all of these barriers that keep us from getting connected."