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 Mahatma Gandhi inspired India and the World through his philosophy of Ahimsa (nonviolence) and successfully fought the British Raj for India’s independence. Gandhiji also fought all his life for truth, equality and fairness. Another inspirational figure who fought for the principles of equality is Martin Luther King Junior (MLK Jr) – the ‘King’ of the US civil rights movement. The March to Washington on 28th August 1963 was a mass demonstration organised by an umbrella of civil rights groups as a rallying cry for equal rights. The peace rally was to highlight racism faced by black Americans across America - particularly in southern states with the laws of segregation of black and white Americans. Anyone opposing the segregation faced violent racist attacks from the likes of Ku Klux Klansmen, who retaliated most violently bombing homes and black neighbourhoods. The demonstration highlighted a number of protests against racism that had begun when seamstress Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white passenger in 1955. This historical incident sparked a bus boycott campaign across Montgomery, Alabama.

It was 50 years ago (last week) that Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech to 250,000 people speaking from the steps of Lincoln Memorial in the heart of Washington DC. Let’s recapture some key passages of his historical message that reverberates in the minds and hearts of people even now and destined to leave a legacy for ever. 

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation….”

“When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promisary note to which every American was to fall  heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black man as well as white men  - would be guaranteed unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness….”   

"I have a dream that my four 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…."

The speech (worth reading in full) stresses his dream of America becoming a great nation by applying freedom to "all of God's children". The question is, fifty years on after this historic speech and massive demonstration how does one judge America’s record on equality and race? There are mixed views and feelings whether MLK’s dream has been achieved? I feel that there is a remarkable progress but there’s a long way to go to achieve the equality of races.    

Marking 50 years of MLK Jr’s speech President Barack Obama addressed a rally last week at the Lincoln Memorial when he honoured the contribution made by MLK as well as the many African-American & white marchers who protested for equal rights for black citizens 50 years ago. President Obama linked his own rise to the White House with the efforts of the civil rights protesters decades ago and declared ensuring economic opportunity was "our great unfinished business". The ‘unfinished business’ truly applies to the challenges facing equality in America and worldwide. The best tribute we can pay to the life and work of Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi is to do everything to achieve that dream of MLK Jr.

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6th September 2013