Commemoration of King’s birth will carry a special meaning

It was 45 years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and closed his famous “I Have a Dream” speech with these words: “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

  • Wednesday, January 7, 2009 7:00am
  • Opinion


For The Beachcomber

It was 45 years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and closed his famous “I Have a Dream” speech with these words: “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

It was those words that echoed in my mind as I heard Barack Obama declared the winner of the presidential race on Nov. 4, and now we are just days away from his inauguration as our nation’s first African-American president.

It has been 146 years since President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, setting slaves free in this country, thus ending years of shame that had torn our nation to pieces. It was 138 years ago that the 15th Amendment to the Constitution gave African-Americans the right to vote.

Only 44 years ago, in the lifetime of most living Americans, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act ending segregation, and it wasn’t until 1967, 41 years ago, that the Supreme Court struck down the laws, common in many states, against interracial marriage.

Regardless of your political affiliations or feelings about party rhetoric, regardless of our economic woes and the many challenges around the world, we should all feel enormous pride that as a nation we have come to this day. Not only have we voted for an African-American president, we have voted for a biracial one.

This doesn’t mean we have ended prejudice or hatred, unfortunately. But it does mean that the majority of Americans have demonstrated that they are willing to judge a man by who he is and what he stands for, instead of his race. It means we have sent a message to children of every race that in this country there is room for each of them to take their place as leaders.

This year, our new president will deliver the main address at the rededication of the Lincoln Memorial, on the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. It will be an historic event, and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15, Dr. King’s birthday, I will do as I have done here for 20 years and organize a community commemoration of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King.

But this year it will be a special celebration! This year it will be a party! For those of us old enough to remember the ’60s and some of us who were active in civil rights, it will be a sweet moment.

Please join me for this wonderful, free event. The Presbyterian Church is hosting it this year. The Island’s newest musical sensation, the Free Range Folk Choir, will provide world music and gospel tunes, and we will join together to sing and celebrate that incredible fact that we have lived long enough to see Dr. King’s dream come true.

— Emma Amiad is a real estate agent and civic activist on Vashon.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

As Delta Dawns, Islanders Need To Renew Precautions

We know now what can happen when we follow the rules: life returns to a semblance of normality.

Reflections on a Sweet Strawberry Festival

The Festival was filled with our traditional events and activities, but all with a focus on Vashon.

Energy Consumption Globally, and Locally, Is Too High

We are not taking the climate crisis seriously.

Vote Yes for Best Starts for Kids

Funding from this initiative has already resulted in direct benefits for Vashon youth.

Everything Must Change. What are the New Rules?

What we really need is some concrete guidance, a “to do” list.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
King County primary election candidates to watch | Roegner

With the Aug. 3 primary election, the public will narrow the field… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at
Massive reforestation effort needed in Washington and beyond | Brunell

Massive forest fires in the western parts of our country are not… Continue reading

Mukai Joins Mayoral Race, Hosts Day of Festival Fun

What says Strawberry Festival like the history of the strawberry on Vashon?

Here’s to Friendlier Fourths in the Future

There are people to see, and places to go, and good clean fun to be had.

Most Read