It can be considered as one of the founding documents of modern America.
Like all truly great speeches, it was as much spiritual as political, and called on all Americans, both black and white, to come together to defeat the scourge of racism and deliver the promises of the US’s founding fathers.
Today known as the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech after some of its most famous phrases, it is a masterpiece of rhetoric and has inspired generations of people around the world.
In this time of division and hatred, I’ve found myself returning time and again to Dr King’s words as a source of comfort and guidance, and a number of things have struck me.
First is how overtly Christian the speech was, imbued throughout with biblical theology. Of course Dr King was a Baptist minister, so this is no surprise, but his faith was clearly central to everything he said and did and he wasn’t embarrassed, unlike most politicians and even senior clergy today, to make this plain.
Second, far from wanting to destroy America, as many modern activists advocate, he wanted to build it up. He saw the “magnificent” words of the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as a “promissory note” to deliver “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to all Americans.
For black Americans this had become a “bad cheque” that had come back marked “insufficient funds” and he saw it as nothing less than a sacred obligation on his fellow countrymen to put right this injustice.
Then, towards the end of the speech, come those ringing phrases that sounded around the world, including: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
That phrase has been a guiding principle for many for over half a century since Dr King’s assassination in 1968, but today it is being overturned.
Dr King’s words are being turned on their heads. For today’s woke activists, drunk on the strong brew that is identity politics, the only thing that matters is the colour of your skin, or your gender, or your sexuality, and the content of your character is a complete irrelevance.
Today, if you follow Dr King’s dictum to ignore skin colour, you will quickly be accused of being “colour blind” and of denying the black experience and silencing black voices.
Surely, it won’t be long before Dr King is denounced as a racist and statues of him are hauled off their plinths and thrown into the nearest river. That is how crazy the modern world has become.
Of course Dr King was no saint – none of us are, and as a Christian he would have recognised our status as fallen sinners. Much like two of my other heroes who have been in the news this week – William Ewart Gladstone and Winston Churchill.
As it happens, two of my favourite books are the magisterial biographies of Gladstone and Churchill written by former Labour Home Secretary Roy Jenkins. He paints a picture of both men, warts and all, and is unflinchingly critical of their many failings.
And sure, both men held views that would be considered “problematic” by fashionable opinion today.
But they both emerge as absolutely towering figures of British politics: Gladstone as a great reforming Prime Minister, and Churchill as the man above all others who helped to defeat fascism and liberate Europe.
But the new puritans of the woke left have persuaded Liverpool University to rename a university building, Gladstone Hall, because Gladstone’s father was involved in the slave trade. His father, not him. How utterly pathetic.
Meanwhile, according to many Twittering idiots, Churchill is actually worse than Hitler and his statue in Parliament Square needs to be torn down. Honestly, words fail me.
My advice to anyone who doubts the legacy of Gladstone and Churchill, including those utterly spineless academics in Liverpool, is to buy copies of both of those Jenkins biographies and spend the summer reading and actually educating themselves.
I guarantee they will learn something of political greatness and human failure.
Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.
And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.
Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.
If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.
Sincerely. Thank you.