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Soul Food: They called him a dreamer

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FILE - In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to thousands during his "I Have a Dream" speech. (AP)

People called him a dreamer, a man of vision who believed that we all could someday sit together at the table of brotherhood and become what he called, “a beloved community.” 

Next Wednesday, the world will let freedom ring for the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On August 28, 1963, Dr. King stepped onto the world stage from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to declare to people of every race, creed and color: “I Have a Dream.”

Highly acclaimed motivational speaker and preacher Willie Jolley recently asked me rhetorically: 

"What would have happened if Martin Luther King hadn't stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said that 'I Have a Dream.' Not have a wish. You know, I didn't have a positive feeling. I have a dream! You've got to have a dream. It's not a nicety, it's a necessity.”

I concur with Jolley. Dreams, no matter how impossible they appear to be, are a necessity. 

Scripture tells us that God often spoke to people through dreams. In the book of Numbers 12:6 we read: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams."

Was Dr. King a prophet? Some believe he was indeed a man who spoke prophetically for the times in which he lived. He set the stage for change through the power of a dream. 

He grew up during some incredibly turbulent years for America. The racial tensions were exacerbated by segregation. He talked about how blacks were marginalized, restricted to live in ghettos and not allowed to move into more affluent and white-only neighborhoods.  

These were troubling times. Acts of hostility inflicted on people during those turbulent years were cruel and despicable. Some black men would hang from trees like some strange fruit as the victims of white lynch mobs. So much hatred, and so little love. It seems love had become a four-letter word seldom if ever used.

This is only part of what Dr. King had to contend with on that day when he stepped forward to declare his dream. He said his dream was deeply rooted in the American Dream and he eloquently wove the dream into the matrix of one of our founding documents, The Declaration of Independence: “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.”

Fifty years later, King’s dream is still very much alive. Undoubtedly, there are many challenges to overcome, but he would applaud the significant gains that have been made. He would applaud the nation’s accomplishments. 

Also, he would challenge us to deal with matters involving poverty, war and injustice. He would seek to inspire us to pray for God’s plan for building a more perfect union.

On the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where King completed his undergraduate degree, students are reminded of King's dream and legacy. They fully understand King's belief that faith and education is part of fulfilling the dream. 

King believed higher learning was a vital tool for escaping the snare of poverty. Former president of Morehouse, Dr. Robert Franklin talked to me about the impact of King's dream on the students and the nation. 

"We hope that every man of Morehouse who graduates will take with him those virtues that we seek to instill: a commitment to academic excellence, community service and ethical leadership," he said.

“Service,” Franklin told me, “is the price we pay for the space we occupy on this earth. It’s the foundation for rebuilding and renewing families, houses of worship, schools, and other organizations that will change the future prospects of our nation, community by community.”

King’s dream embodies forgiveness, another critical element that is often overlooked in today’s era of cynicism. Popular pastor Bishop TD Jakes of the Potter’s House in Dallas talked to me about King’s example of love and forgiveness.

"Look at Dr. King or countless others of that ilk who have done extraordinary feats because they conserve their energy for its highest and best use," he said. "And in this climate that we're living in, the death of all civility, sometimes I have to recognize that forgiveness is the best path to take for long-term success.”

King, the dreamer, envisioned an America where all of God’s children, regardless of their color, would develop a faith that would enable them to stand against injustice, fight bigotry and poverty and redeem America through praying together, working together, struggling together, and eventually developing freedom together. 

It requires forgiveness first between God and man, and then man-to-man.” 

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” With this faith, we come to a place where we forgive each other of our offenses. Failure to forgive leads to bitterness and hatred. Bitterness kills, forgiveness heals.

We cannot feel the fullness of King’s dream if our hearts are hardened by the bitter root of hate.  To achieve the dream, King said; “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

They called him a dreamer. Let us strive to keep the dream alive!  

Kelly Wright is a general assignment reporter for Fox News Channel (FNC), based in the Washington, D.C. bureau. He is also a co-host on "America's News Headquarters" on Saturdays (1:00-2:00 PM/ET). Wright previously served as a co-host on "Fox & Friends Weekend." Click here for more information on Kelly Wright