August 28, 1963, Washington, DC
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. 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.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for 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. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends — so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a 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.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died; land of the Pilgrim’s pride; from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi — from every mountainside.
Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring — when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. As a child, I looked forward to the gifts that Santa Claus would bring, separate from the gifts I expected from my parents. During my teenage years, I began to think about gifts I would give to others. As a parent, I became the giver of gifts for my children, Lew, Jr., Dorsha, and Clinton. And now, I am a grandfather of Emma, Zoe, Elle, and Erin, reliving the joys of children’s laughter at the thought of Christmas gifts. It is one of my greatest gifts of all. But, there is still a greater gift.
I enjoy Christmas so much because of the giving spirit it brings. People give to those who do not have much at all. Even those who don’t have much are giving what they can to spread good cheer to others. You may recall a story of another gift giver, who appeared to not have very much.
Many of our students in Dallas ISD will have a wonderful Christmas holiday because of their parents, families, friends, and generous supporters of education. May they have a very merry holiday season. I want to thank Dallas ISD employees for their caring spirits, dedication, and commitment to our children. I hope their hearts are filled with good cheer this season. May they remember the real reason for this season; the greatest gift giver.
When people ask what I want for Christmas, my simple response is that I want love, peace, and happiness. It is based on a bible passage, Luke 2:10-14; And the angel said unto the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
And so to you, I hope you will feel the spirit of the best gift of all. May you give and receive lots of love, peace, and happiness.
The vision of Dallas ISD is to become a premier urban school district. How the district earns that designation depends on several factors, including, the selection of a strong and proactive superintendent, which I believe we have accomplished. It will take some work on everyone’s part, working towards established goals.
Imagine Dallas ISD being on a special plane ride to our destiny, “A Premiere Urban School District”. Are you ready for the ride?
The Dallas ISD plane has several major sections for passengers. The Board of Trustees has adopted nine goals (major sections) to shape Dallas ISD into the operation necessary to move the district to a higher level of performance altitude. These goals address highly effective teachers and school leaders; safe, secure and welcoming environments; shared responsibility; rigorous curriculum; a positive and compassionate culture; professional development; data driven decisions; supportive central services; and, well-maintained facilities. Which area is yours? What part will you play?
Each section of the plane has a purpose, just as each goal of the district has defined strategies. However, goals and strategies without adequate resources for successful implementation are mere words on paper. So, what are our next steps? What will be your purpose for holding a seat on the plane? What benefit will you provide to Dallas ISD?
The Board has set the course for our destination. The plane is fueled and ready to move forward. Several schools are making great strides in many areas. Our graduation rate is the highest it has been since 1983, and I expect it to climb even higher this year. The Council of Great City Schools has declared Dallas ISD one of the fastest improving urban school districts in the nation. But, there is still much work to be done.
Over the next few years, all of Dallas must step up to the counter with your boarding passes, get on the plane, find your desired section and buckle up and get prepared to address our responsibilities to our children; the future of Dallas depends on it. Before we take off, visualize the Dallas ISD as “A Premier Urban School District”; a vision of the destination for our journey on the plane. Use whatever level of creativity you possess to see the district in this new light and believe the vision is possible. Believing the vision can lead to ownership of the goals and acceptance of your role in making the vision a reality. As you look out the windows of the plane, can you envision Dallas ISD becoming “A Premier Urban School District”?
The belief can only become as real as the people who take part in making things happen. Citizens across Dallas, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, have chosen to partner with the district to make a difference. What about you? The opportunities to join the flight to greatness are vast and can begin in every home and classroom across Dallas. Will your business or organization get onboard the plane, taking a seat, doing your part to make Dallas ISD “A Premier Urban School District”?
The Board of Trustees and district staff must acknowledge, accept and put into action our role with purpose and intent, supporting the superintendent’s reforms. Parents and families need to encourage and support their children to strive to be the best in every endeavor. Neighborhoods need to aid their community schools by providing fiscal, physical, and human resources. Businesses and faith-based entities, small and large, must join hands with Dallas ISD schools and administration. Civic and social organizations can mentor and tutor students to greatness. We all have something to offer. It’s just a matter of finding where and how you can make a contribution. Are you still willing to get on the plane?
We cannot continue on the flight path we have been traveling. It is imperative we change course with a higher altitude towards reform and innovation using creative and engaging approaches that helps every student perform at or above their grade level. Combined with other districts, we can set common core standards that are higher than the state standards. Hand-in-hand with area social service resources, we can help meet the multitude of student needs that impact the educational process. Can we count on you to get on the plane?
Every flight path we travel must take our students closer to the ultimate destination; ready for college and career. And we have to do this within the budgetary restraints and other requirements under which we operate. I believe it can be done. Get your board pass! Step up to the gate! Take your seat! Buckle up! Get ready for take-off! Destination: A Premier Urban School District!
Visualize and believe in Dallas ISD. Contact a local school, or call the Office of Community Relations at 972-925-3920 to discuss how you can become engaged.
As always, I am available to meet with your organization to discuss these opportunities and the many successes in Dallas ISD in general and in District 5 in particular. Contact my office at 972-925-3718 to schedule a meeting with your group. And, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
At 11:11 a.m. on Nov.11, 2011, students throughout Dallas ISD will spend 11 minutes of their day reading a book, magazine, or other printed publication.
With an emphasis on literacy, we are recruiting as many as 1,111 volunteers to join students on that day for 11 minutes of reading. On 11-11-11, at 11:11 a.m., district staff and high school students will join a host of volunteers from the business community, service organizations and others to read with and to elementary students throughout the district.
11.11.11, a literacy campaign I conceived, is part of Dallas Reads!, a larger city-wide initiative to encourage everyone to read. Through Dallas Reads! the district is joining forces with the City of Dallas, local organizations and businesses, and parents and community members to emphasize the power of literacy.
Students who read are infinitely better prepared for life and personal success than those who do not. On 11.11.11, Dallas ISD students and adults alike will be reminded of the importance of literacy to our lives. Click on the link below to begin the process of signing up to volunteer to read to elementary school students in Dallas on 11.11.11.
Encourage your colleagues, family and friends to join us. Register now. We’ll see you Friday, 11-11-11 at a school near you. Students will be waiting for you.
The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) held their annual conference November 17-21 in Fort Worth, Texas. On Thursday, November 18, as part of the opening night reception, five Texans were recognized as the Five Stars in the Lone Star State. I was recognized for my contributions to the field of education, and especially for advancing the education of African American students. I accepted this award from Dr. Carroll Thomas, President, NABSE, on behalf of the students in Dallas, as well as those throughout Texas, and the United States. I appreciate this recognition, and the honor.
The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) is the nation’s premiere non-profit organization devoted to furthering the academic success for the nation’s children – particularly children of African descent. Now in its 38th year, NABSE boasts an outreach to more than 10,000 preeminent educators including teachers, administrators, superintendents as well as corporate and institutional members. Founded in 1970, NABSE is dedicated to improving both the educational experiences and accomplishments of African American youth through the development and use of instructional and motivational methods that increase levels of inspiration, attendance and overall achievement.
I have been involved with NABSE since the beginning of my teaching career in 1986. The Dallas Regional NABSE (dr/NABSE) was instrumental in shaping my early perspectives of teaching. We held monthly meetings that were more professional development in nature. I learned from educational leaders in the Dallas area, and throughout the state, as they came to Dallas to share their expertise in curriculum, pedagogy, best practices, and research. I am grateful for dr/NABSE and the efforts they make to improve the education of African American students in Dallas ISD.