1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech


by Al Swilling, SENAA International
28 AUGUST 2023

On 28 August 1963, I was 12 years old. No, it wasn't my birthday, but it did turn out to be a special day. When I awoke that morning, I had no idea that my life, my outlook on life, and my approach to life would be molded, changed, and decided that day.

It was when the TV was turned on and I heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech that I realized that this was the path that I would pursue.

The mood was set for Dr. King's speech by Peter, Paul and Mary; Bob Dylan; and other performers. Joan Baez's delivery of the song, "We Shall Overcome" united the audience; but it was Dr. King's delivery of his "I Have A Dream" speech that solidified the people's resolve to see their mission through, no matter how hard the fight, or how long it might take to fully realize the equality spoken of in that magnificent oratory.

As Dr. King spoke, I was enthralled by his words. He was saying out loud what I, even at my young age, felt in my heart. As a Tsalagi (Cherokee) boy growing up in a white-dominated world, knowing the history of racism and violence against the Tsalagi and other Indigenous Peoples, Dr. King's words went straight to the core of my being. I wanted to do for my people, Indigenous Americans, and other non-white races in this nation, what Dr. King and others were doing for African-Americans. I wanted Dr. King's dream for African-Americans to also become a reality for my people and all other non-white races. I wanted to be a part of bringing about the day when people would be judged "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character". It was the day that forever changed my life, and I am grateful to Dr. King for saying out loud what was in all of our hearts.

Today, 28 August 2023, marks the 60th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, when thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., protesting segregation, racism, and inequality. The event would go down in history as one of THE most important chapters in the fight for civil rights and equality in the United States; and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech would become the call to action for civil rights activists across the nation from that day to this.

In many ways, Dr. King's dream has become reality, but in many other ways, that dream has yet to be realized. When we suffer a setback, we should, I believe, listen again to Dr. King's speech for inspiration; and we should sing out, if only to ourselves, the song that Joan Baez made famous on that day, "We Shall Overcome".

On this 60th anniversary, I will remember, I will honor, I will listen to, and I will again be inspired to continue by Dr. King's dream.

I hope that others will join me in celebrating this anniversary of this day in history, and in renewing the resolve to continue the struggle. If we work together to end the recent resurgence of racism, bigotry, and intolerance, and stay the course, we shall overcome. 


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html