The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

August 28, 2013

Marking ‘I Have a Dream’: Local men speak of MLK’s impact on America

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Fifty years ago Wednesday, one of the most famous speeches ever given in America was delivered in Washington.

During the March on Washington, D.C., the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about his dream:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

At 36, Derrick Silas, director of electronic communications for the city of Enid, is too young to have heard King’s iconic speech. Silas read it and studied it from elementary school through university.

Silas, a native of Mississippi, quoted from memory a portion of King’s speech while discussing his legacy.

“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice,” Silas quoted King.

PDF transcript of full speech as delivered Aug. 28, 1963 | Photo slideshow of March on Washington

“A lot of the words in the speech came to pass,” Silas said. “Fifty years ago, I would not have been allowed to be director of electronic communications.”

King gave Silas the inspiration to pursue his own dreams, to get a college degree and make something meaningful of his life.

Norris Williams, 57, pastor of Grayson Missionary Baptist Church, grew up in Camilla, Ga.

He joined the Air Force at 17 and came to Enid in 1976 at age 20. Williams has been pastor at Grayson Missionary Baptist Church for 24 years.

Williams remembers the civil rights movement from his childhood in Georgia.

“I believe his iconic words up to this present time have had an impact on America,” Williams said. “I have seen many changes, but there are still a lot of changes yet to come.”

Some of the changes yet to come are in the way people treat one another.

“I think sometimes we take his speech for granted, because we forget it was not just for individuals, it was for those who have the power to make decisions,” Williams said.

Williams said King’s speech was a call for people to treat one another with love, taking care of each other’s needs.

“When he talked about his children being able to walk together with children of different races, we see that every day,” Williams said. “That has come to pass. But also, we have forgotten that he was for promoting human life, not taking away human life. I believe he wanted his children to be able to live in a world where they could prosper according to their abilities, and I believe that has come to pass.

“Things that my parents couldn’t do, I am able to do, such as live, eat and lodge any place I am able to afford. His words were meant to let everyone know that they themselves make the greatest impact on the world, because they believe that it is self-evident, that all men are created equal. We have not won the battle, but someday, the dream victory will come to pass.”