August 29, 2008

Lawmaker Sees MLK’s Dream Growing Closer to Reality

By Oren Dorell

The children of Martin Luther King Jr. and a man who was there for his "I Have a Dream" speech 45 years ago said Thursday at the Democratic National Convention that Sen. Barack Obama's nomination for president is one realization of King's dream.

"We are making a major down payment on the fulfillment of that dream," said Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a former civil rights activist.

Lewis was there as a speaker when King made his speech before 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for civil rights. King said he had a dream of an America where his children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

King's "words and his example inspired an entire generation of the young and old, the rich and poor -- people of all faiths, races, cultures and backgrounds -- to believe that we had the power, we had the ability, and we had the capacity to make that dream a reality," Lewis said.

King's daughter Bernice, a preacher and community activist based in Georgia, said, "Tonight, we witness in part what has become of his dream.

"This is one of our nation's greatest defining moments," she said.

Martin Luther King III, King's son and founder of Realizing the Dream, a non-profit group that promotes health, education and economic development for the poor, said his father would have been proud to see Obama nominated. But he "would be quick to remind us that realizing his dream is not Barack Obama's job alone. America needs more than a great president to realize my father's dream," King said.

He urged members of the audience to "take an active role" in electing Obama.

"We must do democracy," he said. "That goes far beyond simply casting your vote."

Lewis was a young organizer who was arrested many times for leading non-violent marches and sit-ins. He was beaten and suffered serious injuries in confrontations with angry mobs and police. He said the road ahead for the Democratic faithful will not be easy.

"We've come a long way, but we must march again," he said. "On Nov. 4th, we must march in every state, in every city, in every village. ... We must march to the ballot box. We must march like we have never marched before."

Lewis said Obama's nomination is not an end in itself but part of a struggle that has run through the battle for American independence, the Civil War and the civil rights movement.

"Democracy is not a state. It is an act. It is a series of actions we must take to build what Martin Luther King Jr. called the beloved community," Lewis said.

"For those of us who stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or who in the years that followed may have lost hope, this moment is a testament to the power and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. It is a testament to the ability of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. It is a testament to the promise of America," he said. (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>