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Williams: Speech was universal

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Martinsville lawyer Robert Williams said he considers the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech to be the “universal speech” because it is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

King wanted to “bring about the dream that America was built upon” — that all people are recognized as being created by God as equal and are judged based on their characters, not their skin colors, Williams said.

Since 1963, “the change has been phenomenal” in terms of how Americans relate to people of other races, Williams said, but “we’ve still got a long way to go” before King’s dream is fully achieved.

Williams was in college when King gave his speech. He recalled being in a “virtually segregated atmosphere” there.

However, his children grew up “knowing nothing about the segregation of races” because of changes in laws since the early 1960s, he noted.

Since then, “the number of African-Americans who have been college educated and moved into the middle class ... has seen phenonmenal growth,” said Williams, who is chairman of the Martinsville School Board.

Yet “there are still too many differences,” he said, “in people’s achievements and accomplishments that are separated by race,” and that must change.

For young people, Williams said, to bring about change, “getting a good education is first and foremost, as well as acquiring as much as education as possible to be competitive in the world.”

“We must ensure that African-Americans are fully economically integrated into our local economy,” such as through being able to acquire jobs in both the public and private sectors as well as capital needed for investments as well as home purchases, he said.

Williams said, though, there could be “other problem areas” that must be identified and for which African-Americans must “exert influence” to bring about change.


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