I was a student at Queens College when they announced that a black minister by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King would be speaking at Colden Auditorium. Having lived in Whitestone, Queens, an all-white middle class and affluent neighborhood, I am ashamed to admit I had almost no knowledge of Dr. King and attended mainly because I was a political science major with a break in my schedule and friends told me I had to hear him.
At first, he appeared as just another 'human' wanting to make his voice heard about some cause I had no personal interest in. He spoke like the minister he was and there were some in the audience who shouted out "Halleleujah" at each of his fiery statements, while I tried to listen to what he was really trying to say without being swayed by the crowd. Being the son of Holocaust survivors I have always been suspicious of mob behavior and so I was mostly silent, trying to analyze the true significance of his words and ideas objectively while others were being swayed by his fire. It soon became clear to me that his path was righteous and peaceful, but his cause and words would lead him, and his followers, into untold danger, perhaps even his death.
This was before his "Dream" speech, before the march on Washington, but others were already taking note of the threat this 'minister', this human, represented to their old ideas, the unfair status quo, and were terrified this one man could become the new Moses who could lead, not only his people, but all right-thinking people, into the kinds of peaceful actions that would eventually produce the justice they were so set against.
After his speech, I was not one of those who were swayed by his fire, but I was changed forever, and when I shook his hand as he left the stage, I did not know I was shaking the hand of a man who would someday be an icon of peaceful change and courage. I was never a blind folllower, but you had to be blind to not see the justice in Dr. King's dream.
My advice: don't just take a day off from work or school, but really listen to that wonderful speech and let's make his dream a reality for all people, no matter what race, sexual orientation, economic status, religion or nation. Would we want any less for ourselves?