Creating Visions of Hope

It was to become one of the most important events in the fight for Civil Rights in America. The March on Washington was to showcase the broad support for the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King realized that the speech he was to give was one of the most important he had ever given.

In preparation of the event, MLK’s advisors cautioned him not to use the “dream” as part of his speech. They thought it was too much of a cliché and unbefitting the occasion. The speech was written and edited over and over. Normally MLK did not speak from a written text, but the occasion was thought to warrant a more formal presentation.

When MLK was delivering his speech, it just didn’t feel right to him. He wasn’t comfortable with the text, and he didn’t feel that it was evoking the emotion he had hoped for. Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer, sitting behind him felt the same way. She shouted: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” And MLK changed from a written text to a more comfortable approach that he had perfected over the years speaking from a pulpit.

 I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

 I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

 I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

 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.

 I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

 I have a dream today.

 I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

 This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

What MLK did was create a vision for the hopes for civil rights in America. All of us have hopes, many of those are vague and still developing in our mind. One way to add clarity to our hopes is to create a vision for them. Imagine your hopes as they might actually occur. Anyone listening to MLK that day would have a visual image of what the hope for Civil Rights might actually look like. If we can’t create a vision for our hopes, then how serious are our hopes to us?

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“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Harvard Professor of Business)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.