Today we remember that amazing speech by Martin Luther King Jnr. If you haven’t listened to it yet, there is a modern recording on the BBC Radio 4 website where the original speech is overlaid with modern voices speaking those same words, voices of those who have also campaigned for justice and peace.
This inspirational speech, which I feel must have been inspired by God, began to change American society. But how did it all start?
It started with an act of defiance from Mrs Rosa Parks, a 42 year old Montgomery seamstress, who refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white man – and then is arrested. I doubt if Mrs Parks though her act would gain the momentum that would lead to the march on Washington and the amazing speech that we celebrate today.
She says, “At the time I was arrested, I had no idea it would turn into this. It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.”
Rosa with her quiet eloquence, her commitment to her faith, was a role model of courage. God often uses “small” acts of courage to bring about change. I doubt if many of us will become like Dr King: charismatic and powerful in speech and a leader of many people. But we can all be like Rosa Parks where we can make a stand for courage against what is wrong around us. It could be something in our community; it could be at work or at home; and even in our church! It will often make us unpopular and there may be uncomfortable consequences to being courageous.
Someone said, “don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is”, and as Edmund Burke said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing”
Courage will never be easy, its risky. But as the speech proclaims,”No,no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”