Hes got the whole world in His hands ... Hes got my brothers and my sisters in His hands ...
Hes got the whole world in His hands.
Most of us remember that song very well. Like most people, I cant remember where I first learned the lyrics. We instinctively sing along when its sung. Thats what I did Friday at Springdale Elementary. The third-graders gave a mini-concert as they stood wrapped around the edge of the cafeteria looking at people like me who had come to speak for the schools Black History Month program.
My guide was Zackery, a fifth-grader, who said, as he gave me a tour of the school, Ive got my whole life planned out for me. Probing a little deeper, I asked Zack what college he planned to attend, since his whole life was planned out? Without hesitation, Zack said, Georgia Tech, its a family tradition. I started to ask him who hed marry, but I figured he might have an answer for that, too.
As I gazed around the cafeteria, students in white shirts, diagonally striped ties and khakis, served as guides and servers for lunch -- some picking up plates and others politely asking if we had enough to drink or wanted dessert -- I was struck that this is the world Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., described in his dream:
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.
Some have said there is no magic in sitting little black boys and girls next to little white boys and girls in school, and academically, that is probably correct. However, the magic happens when little black girls and boys and little white girls and boys grow up calling each other friend.
After the singing, a young third-grader, Henry Covington Jr., gave a rendition of a section of Dr. Kings Dream speech. I know, Henry Jr. Ive known him since, since. We attend the same church, but the Dream speech is difficult to master. We are so familiar with Kings articulation of his dream, that its hard for anyone to imitate. Henry Jr. came close.
The older I get the easier I cry. I had to hold it together when Henry Jr., with his voice and cadence rising, spoke words we all know so well:
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, 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 Gods 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!
Just as the assembled 250,000 rose to their feet on Aug. 28, 1963, in front of the memorial for the Great Emancipator in Washington, D.C., we rose to our feet, too.
While the full scope of Kings dream has yet to be fulfilled, with these old eyes, I can see young promise that one day, it will be.
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at (478)744-4342 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet @crichard1020.