It was August 1963. This insurgent but inspiring man stood at the base of the Lincoln Monument and talked about this dream he had. He rephrased and paraphrased parts of the Gettysburg Address and stirred hearts and minds.
He talked about inequities in all forms, including employment and career opportunities. He saw a day when those who were de facto and per se shut out of opportunities for various, flimsy excuses would be viewed as qualified and rose through the ranks along with their co-workers and gained the same gound, the same executive positions, at the same pay.
He talked about a stone of hope out of a mountain of denial. What a dreamer! How can one find one stone in a burial ground of denial?
It was 1963. It was 37 and a half years ago.
Instead of getting closer to seeing the dream come true, we in the United States have been walking backward.
He said he'd been to the mountaintop and saw the day that all joined in the race for opportunity, equally and on the same footing. For those who listened to those words that day, it became a dream that was beyond their vista but a dream that they dared to aspire to.
In spite of the fact that women now populate not only the secretarial pool but the executive rows as well, the numbers are still dismally low for nearly 38 years of trying to wake up. Many terms of inclusion and political correctness have been coined but denial still envelopes the same numbers, no matter their age, race, sex, philosophy.
He spoke of being judged by the content of one's character instead of the color of one's skin. Today, not only the color of one's skin becomes a de facto component of whether one will be given, given, permission to compete, it becomes the basis of denial that is supported by other myths.
So, we have crossed into a new millennium with a social indictment and self-imposed tax. With the reach that the Internet has afforded us and the veiling of actual faces behind computer monitors, perhaps the day has finally arrived when one definitely can be judged by the content of one's character because their skin, their age, their sex, their religion, their sexual orientation, can be masked and the only thing visible is the content and proof of the quality of one's mind.
I have been to my own mountaintop. It only took a peek and what I saw was in the remote, almost imperceptible future. But the day was visible. Unfortunately, a fog bank rolled in and obscured everything for miles around.
But I did see a speck of that dream. And I determined that to grab hold of it. One must take firm hold of each and every tool that is available and become extraordinarily clever about not just using those tools but becoming inventive and thinking outside the dots. And it made me want to read more and practice more and shake my fist while saying, "Yes, they are qualified! Give more than lip service!"
But then, I've always been outspoken.
But then, I've always looked beyond today.
I too have a dream and I too have been to a mountaintop. I too have seen a different way, a better way. I too have seen acceptance and richness because of the openness of the race.
I hope I, unlike that insurgent inspirator, will be standing there in the throngs when we wake up and find the dream has come true.