I saw Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” for the first time earlier this month. I’d seen and read bits and pieces of it before, but watching it in its entirety was something quite different. I had always thought of King as a courageous man, but the Dream speech, given during the March on Washington August 28, 1963, reminded me of his extraordinary confidence and grace, as well.
It was his unshakable confidence that struck me the most. The way he spoke to all those supporters lining the National Mall, it was as though he was guaranteed to succeed where others had failed, as though his dream were guaranteed to come true.
Of course, King couldn’t have known what changes would come. And he certainly couldn’t have known that 46 years later — the day before the country celebrated his birthday — a black man would be sworn in as president of United States. King couldn’t have known that nearly 4 million people would flood the National Mall, the way his supporters had, to witness the event.
No, he couldn’t have known. But as forward-thinking as he was, I get this sense he wouldn’t have been surprised, either.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget casting my ballot for Barack Obama on Nov. 4, 2008, or seeing those election returns roll in. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how emotional I was to see the newspaper the next day, or to watch the new First Family greet supporters after the inauguration. Although Obama was the one doing most the waving and smiling during those first few days, the victory didn’t belong only to him. It belonged to Martin Luther King, Jr., too. And, in a way, it belonged to us all.
Sometimes it still seems like a dream.
This post originally appeared on Jan. 16, 2012