Fort Irwin nurse reflects on Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech
January 10, 2014
Maj. Barbara Givens,a nurse case manager at Weed Army Community Hospital at Fort Irwin delivered this speech below during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration on Jan. 8 at Sandy Basin Community Center at Fort Irwin, California. Her speech is printed below.
"The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's "I Have A Dream" speech has been heard by countless individuals since he delivered it over 50 years ago. The speech was delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington. It has been hailed by some as a defining moment of the American civil rights movement. It has been the subject of much scrutiny over the years.
"Dr. King's speech, born of his dream of freedom and equality for all, quite truthfully, was merely a historical piece to me until I was invited to speak today. I was only a year old when he delivered it in 1963. I have read about it, studied for exams about it, and heard it many times, most notably on an episode of the Bill Cosby Show. But I never really internalized it before, personalized it, or really pondered it until now.
"Some might say shame on me, but we all "get there" eventually. And your "there" is surely different from my getting "there." But that is not the subject of our gathering today, is it? No, we have gathered here today to share in the festivities commemorating the birth of this orator, activist, and yes, dreamer.
"In my opinion, sometimes we tend to think of his actions only in the context of racial equality. This is certainly important, but I believe there is so much more that Dr. King wished to communicate.
"Dr. King's speech to me is a challenge. It is a catalyst. It is a launch pad. It is my and can be your "golden ticket" like in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or for the younger generation, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Nevertheless, that "golden ticket" represented a chance for a boy to become more than he appeared to be. In both movies, and in real life, it shows how every young child has a golden opportunity.
"Within Dr. King's speech, you can discover, as I did, a platform on which anyone can board their train to their "Whole New World." I boarded the "Givens Express" a long time ago. It has taken me to a world where, despite the constraints and systems of control would try to place on me and others like me, I have not only survived but have thrived, soared to new and ever increasing heights. I have defied the impetus of every obstacle, natural or man-made, that has crossed my path.
"Dr. King's speech has caused me to think of myself not as a passenger on this train but to become the conductor in a purposeful way, in which I take control of my own individual destiny: to decide what I want to do, to go where I want to go, and to be what I want to be, in reaching my destination.
"It has inspired to me to develop, implement and continuously revise my plans to accomplish those tasks and many more. And the exciting part is that the journey isn't over, by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just getting started.
"This train that I am conducting is currently at a stop entitled "United States Army." It has been at this stop for 32 years and counting. While at this stop, I have encountered Service Members from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, national origins, creeds and walks of life. In basic training, it was not important where you came from, but that you were an integral and effective member of the team to accomplish the mission. While serving in Iraq, I was not concerned with how different you were from me, but that we were united and had each other's backs against a common foe.
"Even now, in the execution of my current duties, I am privileged to sit at square, oblong, triangular, and sometimes round tables, with individuals not concerned with our differences such as male, female, black, white, Asian, Latino, etc., but more interested in the strengths our differences enable us to bring to that table. We come together, to develop, implement and monitor programs to aid our Service Members, Family Members, Retirees and Civilians.
"Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech has caused me to derail any thoughts of inferiority and inequality. It constantly, eloquently reminds me to conduct myself outside of the stereotypical box designed for those who may look like me. Yes, my skin is dark. My hair is naturally kinky, unless I decide to straighten it. I'm a woman, and, just maybe, I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Just maybe, I didn't attend the right schools. Just maybe, I didn't have affluent parents etc. Dr. King's speech has motivated me to seize each and every moment, to conquer my individual fears and rise to any and every occasion to succeed.
"Dr. King's speech prompted, an uneducated, but very wise, strong and loving woman to whisper a handful of words to me that, to this day, resound very loudly in my ears. If she told me once, she told me a hundred times or more, these simple but powerful words: you can be anything you want to be and you can do anything you want to do. That uneducated but wise woman was my mother.
"I have a dream too, that one day we will not only tolerate one another but accept one another. To tolerate someone or some thing suggests that you do not have a choice, in the actions that you take. But to accept someone, means that you consider them, not by the color of their skin, not the way their hair is straight or kinky, but on the merit and on the content of their character. This is my hope and my faith. With this faith we will be able to live together, work together, play together but most of all, truly love one another."