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Opinion: The 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Speech | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A woman watches a video of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” projected onto the side of the Fort Independence in Boston, Massachusetts August 28, 2013, during an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the speech in Washington. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

In the week of the 50th anniversary of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, we must all stand in tribute to Martin Luther King.

Of course, it is not impossible to translate King’s famous speech into Arabic. Some of the expressions that are written into history lose some of their shine and significance when translated into another language.

King’s speech is one such example. It is far more than a mere commentary made by a politician on a passing event that soon faded from memory. King’s speech promised a humanitarian dream of equality that can be realized on the earth. “I Have a Dream” is not just a passing expression circulated by those who exploit people’s dreams.

As everybody knows, King did not claim to be the undisputed leader of the American civil rights movement. He neither called for violence nor demanded the impossible. He led a crusade to make the dream of equality come true without coercing anyone into following him. King never made a promise that he could not keep. He did not threaten anybody, nor did he fail to face reality. He was a true man of his word, living up to his own principles and beliefs. In addition to this, Dr. King was also a true man of the people.

Due to the twists of fate, Martin Luther King found himself emerging as a champion for the victims of racism. Obsessed with differences in complexion, racists are enslaved by their beliefs and fail to realize the fact that humans are equal regardless of their gender, color or creed.

King took a leading position in the American civil rights movement without becoming consumed with bitterness or anger. He did not express feelings of hatred towards those who were oppressing his people; rather, he extended his hand to them in a bid to bridge the gap between the oppressors and the oppressed and move the country as a whole towards the light of equality.

There are examples of African-Americans who initially fought against racism only to be consumed by this very phenomenon after their hearts became filled with anger and hated. Such people ended up committing even greater injustices against both the black and white communities.

Yes, such examples do exist. However, Martin Luther King—and Nelson Mandela after him—remains a magnificent example of the fact that the world can still produce great reformers. Had the oppressed despaired at that time, a man such as Martin Luther King could never have emerged. Nor would he have been able to lead them, and the next generations, to achieve more than what they had ever expected. King showed that nothing is impossible when it comes to man’s crusade for justice.