King Day Talk

By A. Wayne Schwab

[I am here by God’s serendipity. We had planned to make this Sunday our try at return to worship for me. Renate was asked to give this talk but could not. She was teaching in Vietnam that year, 1963. So I offered and here I am.]

Recalling The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King’s Address and what it meant for me – 8/28/1963

I have to start with my morning breakfasts from kindergarten through high school. I always sat down to a full breakfast – cereal, eggs, bacon, and toast. I was served by a maid who had left her own home by 6:00 am. She had to leave her husband and children to fend for themselves.

Rosa Parks, the freedom riders, lynchings, and Martin Luther King woke me up – woke me up to the injustice of our maid fixing my breakfast while her own family fended for themselves.

By 1963, I was the pastor of a growing church in Montvale, NJ. The call came to join the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in late August. At last, here was something I could do. Our church was divided on social issues. So were the clergy of the nearby churches. I saw no one to ask to go with me.

So, I went on my own. I did not wear my white Episcopal collar. Our church had not taken a stand on actions to support civil rights.

The train from Newark to Washington was full of marchers with a lot to share. From Union Station, we went to Constitution Avenue. In ranks of twelve, we headed for the Lincoln Memorial. Constitution Avenue is the avenue of presidents and heros. And here we were – of all colors and of all walks of life.

At the Lincoln Memorial, I worked my way forward to be sure I could see and hear all. Dr. King did not speak for some time. When he did, he spoke with the power of a righteous cause. Silence fell on that crowd of hundreds of thousands.

His final words said it for me. Here are the ones that spoke to me.

“I have a dream today!

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.”

That was my dream too – a day when his sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters would join hands with my sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters and sit at the same table – as members of one human family.

No wonder his speech still moves the hearts of many of us.

The ceremonies ended. We walked back down Constitution Avenue to Union Station and the train home.

That day transformed many, many of us. The struggle to make that dream come true continues. Progress is slow but it is real. Don’t give up.