Saturday, August 24, 2013

I Have a Dream, 50th Anniversary

August 28, 2013 is the fifty-year anniversary of Martin Luther King, Junior’s seminal 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream.”

Below I offer brief commentary on a few paragraphs from the front half of the speech with the corresponding paragraphs of the back half. This arrangement also highlights what I believe to be the center section(s) where often the most poignant imagery of Christ obtains.

So, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary and to remind us all of the best of what American can and should be, I offer this suggested outline and related commentary, with a link to the entire speech.

I Have a Dream
Delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963


Suggested outline, summary

A — The Greatest Demonstration for Freedom
 B — The Emancipation Proclamation

  C — An Exile in His Own Land
   D — Honoring This Sacred Obligation

    E — Stand on the Warm Threshold which leads into the Palace of Justice
     F — Our Struggle on the High Plane of Dignity and Discipline
    E’ — Justice Rolls Down like Waters and Righteousness like a Mighty Stream
     F’ — Veterans of Creative Suffering. … Unearned Suffering is Redemptive

  C’ — Let Us not Wallow in the Valley of Despair
   D’ — I Have a Dream

 B’ — We Will Be Free One Day
A’ — Let Freedom Ring

Below I compare, for example, the frontside A with the backside A’. Much more could be said about each paragraph, each sentence, each phrase which Reverend King so beautifully and effectively spoke that warm Summer day fifty years ago.

Beginning and ending A Structures 
A — The Greatest Demonstration for Freedom
A’ — Let Freedom Ring

Notice he begins this seminal speech [A] by introducing the event as the “greatest demonstration for freedom” while he ends the speech [A’] with the clarion call to “let freedom ring” citing the words of the most beautiful and poignant Negro Spiritual. (One of the most beautiful examples of a concluding A’ structure, Salvation Song, we have run across.)

Beginning and ending B Structures 
B — The Emancipation Proclamation
B’ — We Will Be Free One Day

He then moves into [B] the thrust of the promise of what he and the throngs were there that day to secure, a renewal and fresh start of a modern day ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ -- where he speaks of it being a “light of hope.” The fulfillment of the promise of true freedom is mirrored in his words near the end of the speech [B’], that with this “stone of hope” they know “that we will be free one day.”

Beginning and ending C Structures 
C — An Exile in His Own Land
C’ — Let Us not Wallow in the Valley of Despair

He next describes the problems of living in a world [C], where “the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination” create “a lonely island of poverty” and the Negro is still “languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.” King returns to this general theme near the end of the speech [C’] where he tells the gathered crowd to go back to “the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” It can be overcome. He then challenges, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair” (even though there be segregation, discrimination, poverty, and exile).

Beginning and ending D Structures 
D — Honoring This Sacred Obligation
D’ — I Have a Dream

Next he describes [D] the “promissory note” which “the architects of our republic wrote [in] the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” He declares that “we’ve come to cash this check – a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” He returns to this [D’] when he beautifully and memorably describes his Dream, “rooted in the American 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.’” That, this land “will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”

Beginning and ending E Structures 
E — Stand on the Warm Threshold which leads into the Palace of Justice
E’ — Justice Rolls Down like Waters and Righteousness like a Mighty Stream

Then, he gets into what is perhaps the most challenging and poignant section of this speech [the center E and F sections], where such a chiastic organization in the scriptures usually bespeaks of how we are to emulate our Savior Jesus Christ (especially as he was our Exemplar as the Suffering Servant). In our studies we have found that the front E structure often has verbiage where paths or passages or some boundary is crossed to get from the E to the center F structure.

Here [E] King speaks of “the sunlit path of racial justice.” And that his people “stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice.” (For those of you who have been in the Temple, this is where we might think of the imagery of coming into the presence of the Lord through the veil.) This is the “hallowed spot” (King’s words) where followers of Christ encounter or begin to see how Christ’s suffering was for them. Following this, King warns [E’] that “we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Beginning and ending F Structures 
F — Our Struggle on the High Plane of Dignity and Discipline
F’ — Veterans of Creative Suffering. … Unearned Suffering is Redemptive

At the very center of the speech [F], he pointedly challenges those gathered – and indeed all of us – to follow Jesus as, and whenever, we ourselves suffer (for whatever reason). “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” In the most heart-felt, loving fashion, King challenges us all [F’] to be “veterans of creative suffering.” And to, “Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

(This, in my opinion, is one of the keenest insights into the general state of the world where inequities too often abound. Not just here in America, where we have had to overcome racial inequities and discrimination, but across the world, where injustice of all kinds continues to exist. King challenges those who suffer to do so creatively and knowing that it is redemptive. Much more could be said about the trials and tribulations found in this world. Of course, King’s Dream is that all of this trouble will be made right and whole. We can extend this not only to America, but to the whole world.)

The other major theme common to a center F structure is the coming together of two things, two people, two principles, etc. This is where supposed ‘separateness’ is revealed to truly be, in fact, ‘connected.’ Where two is, in fact, one; where disconnected or disparate feelings, conditions, situations, or relationships are made ‘whole.’ King most insightfully says, “many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

When we all become aware -- deep within -- that we all are, indeed, brothers and sisters of a loving Heavenly Father, Martin Luther King, Junior’s Dream will come to pass for everyone, everywhere. This is – should be -- our shared dream.

~

See full text at: http://www.davidicchiasmus.com/blog/authors-non-lds/martin-luther-king-jr-dream/

*Note: My good friend Jared Demke (1957-2006) and I worked on many such parallel and/or chiastic outlines over the years, several of which are presented on the website above.

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