“I Have a Dream”

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“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Since finding the incredible online resources of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, my nightly routine has included washing the dishes to a Schumacher Lecture.  One of my favorites is the below lecture by Van Jones, founder of Rebuild the Dream, in which he gives an amazing account and commentary on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech.”Jones says:

          “What did this kid do in those few moments that 50 years later Presidents want to stand on the spot where he did it? What did he do? Fifty years later there’s a statue of the brother. Fifty years later, he has his own holiday. Washington and Lincoln have to share one. What did he do? And what are we doing?”

          “… Dr. King announced a politics of a future worth fighting for. That’s all. And it is very easy to imagine sitting here when we talk about kids holding hands and this sort of stuff that was something easy or obvious. We had 300 years of enslavement and 100 years of Jim Crow racist terror that was still happening when he was speaking. There was not one sentence in that refrain that was reasonable, that seemed plausible. Lest we forget, two weeks afterward racists blew up a church and killed two little girls. Two weeks later. He was in the middle. We talk about the war against terror – he was still living in a 100 year period of terrorism in the United States against him and everyone he knew. Lest we forget he was shot to death five years later, lest we forget three years earlier they blew up his house. Yet when they asked him, “Tell us about your dream, Martin,” he was able to speak about a future worth fighting for and we live in that future in large part today.”

Thinking about this yesterday on Martin Luther King Day, I felt convicted. I wondered if maybe this blog wasn’t straying a little into the trap of merely lamenting the past and critiquing the present. Doing so is little more than Monday morning quarterbacking – unhelpful. The real question is what is that irrational and implausible dream of a future worth fighting for? What is my dream?

It’s a tough question and one that I had to spend some time with, but finally I think I’ve got something. So here we go:

I have a dream –

  • That each generation is more virtuous than the next: There was a time in our history when the purpose of life was inseparable from the Aristotelian concept of virtue. It was a time when the cultivating of wisdom, courage, temperance, charity, fortitude and kindness was paramount. I want to see those virtues come front and center once again, with each succeeding generation getting closer to the vision.
  • That we embrace the “Small is Beautiful” mentality: There’s something about small companies, small towns, small businesses, and small organizations that make us feel more human and connected. I want our public policy focused on helping ordinary people accomplish those small things.
  • That our built environment centered around walking, biking, and rail: The best built environments are pedestrian-oriented and don’t place the dangers and financial burdens of personal transportation on individuals. I want our economy to develop a robust transportation network and land use pattern that would make owning a car optional.
  • That we become better stewards of our environment: I think that an economics rooted in place can’t help but lead to a healthier, more beautiful physical environment. I would love to see that happen.
  • That ours is an economy of cooperation: I want to see a shift in our economic paradigm from one of competition to one of cooperation so we can better serve our brothers and sisters in need.

This list of dreams is far from complete, as I’m still thinking about and striving for a future worth fighting for. But it’s a start. And it’s something of a roadmap for this blog. The importance of a firm grasp of our own history can’t be overstated, but it must all be directed toward the building of a brighter future.

What is your dream? What is your future worth fighting for?

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