I was six when my family came to the US, a couple of years before the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Even at my young age, I was certain that the US was this magnificent land of wonder. I didn’t speak English, but I understood the promise of freedom held in blue jeans and rock and roll.
The brilliant simplicity of “1 o’oclock, 2 o’clock 3 o’clock rock” made American culture deliciously contagious.
In college I began to appreciate the broader significance of that freedom; it was not limited to the tolerance of irreverence. Implicit in that freedom was limitless possibility including the possibility to re-imagine our world.
King captured that possibility. He spoke about dreams. His words were a daring miracle for those of us who come from tradition bound places where turtles move faster than social change. King is a beacon for the rest of the world. Today, it is easy for our cousins in other countries to criticize the US. Yet, when we counter their list of complaints with the story of King, they are silenced. He is theirs as much as he is ours.
Dina Al-Sowayel, Ph.D, is the associate director of women’s studies and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.