Although he’s been dead for over forty years, I’ve been seeing and reading quite a bit about the Reverend Martin Luther King in the popular press lately. Much of this is attributable to the classification of February as “Black History” month -- but the majority is connected to America’s historic election of its first African-American president.
Many of the stories reference Dr. King’s soaring “I have a Dream” speech. If you’ve never heard or watched it, I would suggest you do. You can pull up the file on youtube.com or download it on iTunes. It is awe-inspiring not just for its words, but also given the time in which it was given.
It was August 28, 1963. America was in a time of great social upheaval. The Supreme Court had only recently order the desegregation of the public schools. In Washington, the Civil Rights Act was still a year away from passage. Racism was alive and well. Hundreds of thousands of citizens descended on the Mall in D.C. to make their case for racial equality. Prior to the Reverend King’s speech, musicians Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed. Actor Charlton Heston spoke. It was a scene!
Admittedly, I wasn’t even born at the time of the address, but as I grew up, I was able to see some of the changes that King helped the country make. Because the Reverend King stated the problems and spoke of solutions, Americans were finally able to catch a vision for what needed to be done.
I think the disability community is in need of an “I have a dream” type moment.
Pick your state. I’m especially grieved by the current needs in my home state of Colorado. Funding is anemic and woefully insufficient. We have over 20,000 adults on waiting lists for various services. Too many seem satisfied with the status quo.
Our state and federal governments appear unaware or unconcerned about the gathering storm clouds concerning the special needs community. The longer they wait to address them, the more difficult it will be to tend to them down the road.
Let me be clear: money is not the only issue. There is a lot of money out there, but too much of it is wasted on bureaucracy and programs that seem to hurt more than help. Money is being spent on lawyers instead of on therapy and medical treatments that can give these children a fighting chance at the future they deserve. A top to bottom audit is needed. The problem is allocation and misplaced priorities.
But…I have a dream!
I dream of a state-to-state coordinated effort to make a difference in the lives of families. I look forward to a day when moving to another state doesn’t mean losing services or having to start fighting the system all over again.
I dream of a day when the priorities of our government are again its most vulnerable citizens, not special interests trying to line their own pockets.
I dream of a day when those who are adversely affecting the health and well being of others would admit their transgression and seek to rectify there wrongs without litigation.
I dream of the day when if a mother and a father are confronted with the devastating news of a child’s illness, that they won’t be crushed by paperwork and bills but rather embraced by a system designed to help ease the hurt and facilitate the healing.
I have a dream that churches across this nation will further embrace the neediest among us – and be reminded that their mission field is not just the world, but also their own backyard.
And like Dr. King, I dream that my children will be judged not by the color of their skin but rather by the quality of their character.
But lastly, I also dream that our friends with disabilities won’t be judged by the extent of their challenges, but rather that we might be judged by the amount of effort we extend on their behalf.
My friends, this is the mission – this is the dream -- that fuels the passion of our organization’s effort. These thoughts come straight from my heart. If you share a similar conviction, I invite you to join us in making this dream a reality.