Before the memory of the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” speech passes into the recesses of our mind, we need to consider where do we go from here. 

Some conservative commentators reflected on Dr. King’s life and agreed that racial injustice did exist and that we are better as a nation for having addressed the racial injustice that was a fact of life for many of our fellow citizens.

His message was not about just segregation but also about economic freedom.

The original title of the March on Washington in 1963 was, “For Jobs and Freedom.”After the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights bill, Dr. King’s message was more and more about economic freedom.

In one of his last sermons in 1968, Martin Luther King stated, ” If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.” 

His statement was profoundly true then and it is true now. His statement was made during a time when our economy was soaring, one wonders what he would say today, when we find too many people in poverty. A man or a woman does not seek poverty, most of us want a job, so a person can be independent and take care of oneself,  or take care of one’s family. It is only natural to want a good job, a roof over your head and food on the table.

Martin Luther King believed in opportunity for all. During his last year, he led the “Poor People’s March on Washington, where a tent city was established. There are too many tents today, with people living under overpasses and in back alleys.

Poverty is dehumanizing. But for the grace of God, anyone could stand in the shoes of a homeless person if luck or circumstance turned against any of us. Those who were left unemployed as a result of the bank crisis of 2008, were not to blame for bad loans and greed, they were the victims of the bad behavior of others. 

Dr. King in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize of 1964, said, ” Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustise, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed-not only its symptoms but its basic causes.”

It is degrading to be out of work and poor. How many of us live from paycheck to paycheck? Being out of work is harmful to a person’s pride and self worth.

Where is the retraining for those who have lost their jobs due to robotics? Where is the hope for those who are 50 years old who lose their jobs to a younger person because they won’t have to be paid as much? Where is the training for those who won’t be going to college for the new jobs of the future? 

The rust belt has many towns and cities that lay fallow due to outsourcing and companies seeking cheap labor.

We are only as strong as the weakest among us. We have miles to go before we reach a point where we can say to Martin Luther King that things are better for those out of work and impoverished.

Some of us may say that we do not have the money to do the things we need to put America back to work, but we do have the money. Martin Luther King once said, in 1967, “A Nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense that on social programs that uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Today, we are in the same boat, we are part of a community and a nation where our middle class is deteriating, and those who live under poverty is increasing.

Martin Luther King saw no color when it came to poverty. If you are poor in West Virginia or in the Delta of Mississippi you are poor. The hunger pains of children who go to bed hungry knows no color. Dr. King as a pastor knew of God’s love and Christ’s teachings of taking care of the poor and hungry. We should do no less, we should care for the poor and the hungry among us.

If we have the political will to work towards greater opportunity for all regarding having good jobs for all, we can make the second part of Martin Luther King’s dream become a reality, economic freedom. Through economic freedom we can fulfill our promise as a nation and pay that promisory note that Jefferson alluded to in his Declaration of Independence, that among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


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