On 50th Anniversary of "I Have a Dream" Speech, Celebrate God Who Inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.

In preparation for the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, the National Park Service is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove a controversial quote on the side of the King Memorial: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

Though the inscription was paraphrased from a sermon King delivered in Atlanta, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar endorsed the change after critics denounced it. "The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit," proclaimed poet Maya Angelou.

If King were alive, would he be less concerned about being called a drum major than he'd be by the omission of any reference to God? Curiously, when the 14 quotes on the inscription wall were chosen for King's memorial, not one mentioned the Inspirer of his faith and courage to challenge the nation's racial injustice of his generation. Can you imagine a Lincoln Memorial without such references as, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right"?

What a blessing it would be to include a reference to the Father that motivated not only the King, but the lives of so many men and women He has inspired over the years as well. For me the point is particularly serious, considering the impact the "I Have A Dream" speech had on one of my educational mentors, Chuck Johnston.

As a young teacher in Atlanta's segregated schools, Johnston's original purpose in viewing the 1963 march was not to hear King but instead Peter, Paul, and Mary's performance of Blowin' in the Wind.

Providentially, it would be King's words that would leave the greatest impression on Johnston: "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

This proposition stirred the heart of the Georgia native, the great-grandson of a former Mississippi slave owner, who began his teaching career in the 1960s and worked hard to bring about racial reconciliation in the schools he led. I witnessed this firsthand when we served together in the late 1990s, as Johnston diversified the administration, faculty and student body. As a matter of fact, when President Obama recently weighed in on the Trayvon Martin verdict and the need to "bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," I couldn't help but think of Johnston's vision and work.

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John Murray
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