The sun rises near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.,… (Getty Images file photo )
It's Martin Luther King Jr. season again. With the arrival of Monday's holiday honoring the civil rights icon, schoolteachers will dust off their MLK posters and fill their bulletin boards with "I Have a Dream" speech quotes.
News stations will remind us of MLK's involvement in the civil rights movement, and they will do so with footage from the March on Washington in 1963.
There will no doubt be a program staged in the nation's capitol in the shadow of the MLK memorial where everyone from politicians to some unknown preacher named Martin—in honor of the icon, naturally—will speak about Dr. King and his dream.
I have begun to feel some type of way, as the song says, about the observance of MLK Day—not because I don't believe in the greatness of Martin Luther King Jr. but rather because I believe he was greater than the dream.
I can't hate on the "I Have a Dream" speech. It was in this speech that Dr. King gave the descendants of slavery our greatest charge.
"In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds," he said. "... Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline."
I get it. It was a phenomenal speech, and if a man were to be defined by one speech, "I Have a Dream" would be that speech. However, a man such as Martin Luther King Jr. cannot be defined by just one speech. Rather, he is defined by his body of work, and just once I would like to see another speech, article or sermon get some attention on MLK Day.
Maybe it's a matter of perception. To most, Dr. King was just a black leader who fought for civil rights. To me, he was a crusader for world peace.
Of course, his mission began at home, as did the missions of Mother Teresa and Tenzin Gyatso (the 14th Dalai Lama). And just like Mother Teresa and Tenzin Gyatso, Dr. King's message reached international ears and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, a prize that Dr. King himself called a "commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for 'the brotherhood of man.'"
In fact, it was this commission that Dr. King cited as his second reason for speaking out against the war in Vietnam in the speech "A Time to Break Silence."
"Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves," he said. "For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition."
A man of peace. That's who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is to me. That's my perception. And the wonderful thing about perception is that we all have our own unique way of thinking about and understanding things.
This MLK Day, I encourage everyone to explore additional pieces in Dr. King's body of work. No matter how you perceive him or his message, you surely will discover there is much more to Dr. King than the dream.
Yusef Williams is a RedEye special contributor.
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