The American Dream

The American Dream July 5, 2018

For the 4th of July, the lead editorial of the conservative newspaper the Daily Oklahoman printed excerpts from a number of classic Independence Day speeches.

I was struck by this one in particular, from Martin Luther King, Jr., no less, which says that “the American Dream” is not about owning your own home; rather, it is about something much more profound:

Martin Luther King Jr. — “The American Dream,” delivered July 4, 1965 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta

“Then that dream goes on to say another thing that ultimately distinguishes our nation and our form of government from any totalitarian system in the world. It says that each of us has certain basic rights that are neither derived from or conferred by the state. In order to discover where they came from, it is necessary to move back behind the dim mist of eternity. They are God-given, gifts from His hands. Never before in the history of the world has a sociopolitical document expressed in such profound, eloquent, and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality.”.  . .

“You see, the Founding Fathers were really influenced by the Bible. The whole concept of the imago dei, as it is expressed in Latin, the ‘image of God,’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God.”. . .

“All men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that can’t be separated from you. Go down and tell them, (No) ‘You may take my life, but you can’t take my right to life. You may take liberty from me, but you can’t take my right to liberty. You may take from me the desire, you may take from me the propensity to pursue happiness, but you can’t take from me my right to pursue happiness.’ (Yes) ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights and among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.'”

There was a time when Americans of liberal politics, like Dr. King, talked this way.  The editorial also printed others speeches in this vein from Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  Though today’s liberals purport to revere Dr. King, I wonder if they would tolerate such a speech today, with its invocation of the Bible and its grounding of our liberties in God.


Illustration:  John Trumbull, “Declaration of Independence” (1817-1818), via Pixabay, CC0, Creative Commons


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