The Dream Today
Fifty years after the March on Washington


National Review Online asked a panel of distinguished commenters to assess where Dr. King’s dream stands, 50 years after his historic speech.


Anthony Bradley

Fifty years ago, Dr. King provided America with a provocative vision, in which our republic would become a place of greater political and economic liberty for African Americans. However, in 2013, when we examine the black underclass in cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., we can see how the politics of progressivism singlehandedly turned King’s dream into a nightmare.

For example, low-income black families were obliterated by welfare programs that emerged out of the Johnson administration’s failed “War on Poverty.” Welfare destroyed the incentives for men to marry and care for their children, remain employed, and save money for the long term. Today, as a result of progressivist social visions, only about 26 percent of black women marry, compared with 51 percent for white women. In 1950, 64 percent of African American women married, compared with 67 percent for white women. Without flourishing families, low-income blacks were doomed to government dependency and cyclical poverty.

Dr. King and I share the same dream: African Americans should experience more liberty instead of less. However, if America wants to see King’s dream come to life in the 21st century, we will need to abandon progressivism’s redesign of the family, the mythology that governments are best at running economies, and the failed notion that increasing public funding of failing public schools helps children.

Black America needs freedom from the surrogate decision-making of progressive government bureaucrats who write policies that undermine moral virtues and treat people differently according to the color of their skin. Only if that freedom is established can the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness be fulfilled for all in America, regardless of race or class.

 Anthony B. Bradley is an associate professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College and a research fellow at the Acton Institute.


Roger Clegg

Today, Martin Luther King Jr. might reflect as follows:

My fellow Americans, since I spoke to you last, we have seen America become increasingly a multiracial and multiethnic country. Over one in four Americans now say they are something other than simply “white.” Blacks are no longer the largest minority group: Latinos are.

And blacks and whites are the slowest growing populations. Since the last census, the Latino population has grown by 43 percent, and the Asian population has grown by 43 percent as well. What’s more, the number of Americans who identify themselves as belonging to “two or more races” has grown by 32 percent.

In such a nation, the principle of E pluribus unum becomes critical in two ways — one having to do with the color of our skin, and the other having to do with the content of our character.

First, we cannot have a legal regime in which government agencies, our great universities, and our other institutions sort people according to skin color and what country their ancestors came from, and treat some better and others worse depending on which silly little box they check.

Second, the character we as fellow citizens have in common must be cultivated and celebrated more than our “diversity.” 

Character is cultivated first and foremost by family. As a Negro and a Christian minister, it saddens me to see that today more than 7 out of 10 African Americans are born out of wedlock, along with more than 6 out of 10 Native Americans, and more than 5 out of 10 Hispanics — versus fewer than 3 out of 10 whites and fewer than 2 out of 10 Asians and Pacific Islanders. That is too high for all groups, but who can fail to see the connection between these numbers and how each group is doing? 

It breaks my heart to see so many children being raised without a father.

 Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity. 



MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech
This past August 28 marked the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. King’s stirring words would be remembered as one of the most famous and influential speeches in American history. Here’s a look back.
King delivered his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of more than 200,000 who had gathered for the “Great March” in Washington, D.C.
King (center) joined other civil-rights leaders during one of the day’s marches.
King with some of the other speakers who addressed the crowd that day. From left: Whitney Young, Jr., of the Urban League; King; union leader Walter Reuther; Eugene Carson Blake of the National Council of Churches; and John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
King with Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress.
THE SPEECH: The burgeoning crowds surrounded the reflecting pool and stretched back toward the Washington Monument.
King spoke eloquently of the trials of the civil rights movement, the sacrifices of many in attendance, and the ongoing struggle for equality. But his words of hope and optimism for the future rang the loudest, and would echo through history.
Said King: “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 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.”
“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.”
“When we allow freedom to 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!’”
THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON: Known formally as the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” the August 28, 1963, event was organized to draw attention to continued racial discrimination and to advocate for government assistance to improve black unemployment.
Organizers of the rally met with President John Kennedy in the Oval Office earlier in the year to discuss the aims of the event. (Rev. King is seen third from left.)
A. Philip Randolph organized the march.
Other scenes from the day’s marches and rallies.
Some of the many faces of the marchers on that day.
Marchers gather around the reflecting pool.
FAMOUS FACES: The march drew many well-known entertainers and other figures who had been involved in the civil-rights movemment. Pictured, actor Sidney Poitier (left) and singer Harry Belafonte.
A journalist interviews Sammy Davis Jr. (at left) and NAACP executive Roy Wilkins.
Charlton Heston (center) and Marlon Brando (at right).
Actor Burt Lancaster speaks to the crowd.
Actor and activist Ossie Davis
Former professional basketball player Bill Russell (at left)
Famous musicians were also in attendance. Pictured, Peter, Paul and Mary entertain the crowd.
Folk musicians Joan Baez (left) and Bob Dylan
Odetta Holmes also performed.
Updated: Jan. 19, 2014