One American Family: An Excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Sermon “The American Dream”

The Preaching of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the United States, what unites Whites and Blacks, despite their differences in color? What unites Italians and Irish men and women, despite their ethnic differences and differences in gender? What unites Jews and Muslims, Protestants and Catholics, despite their religious differences? What unites atheists and theists? In the United States, what unites its citizens from all peoples, nations and languages, despite their differences? The fact that they are all Americans! As Martin Luther King, Jr. said,

“The other day Mrs. King and I spent about ten days down in Jamaica. I’d gone down to deliver the commencement address at the University of the West Indies. I always love to go that great island which I consider the most beautiful island in all the world. The government prevailed upon us to be their guests and spend some time and try to get a little rest while there on the speaking tour. And so for those days we traveled all over Jamaica. And over and over again I was impressed by one thing. Here you have people from many national backgrounds: Chinese, Indians, so-called Negroes, and you can just go down the line, Europeans, European and people from many, many nations. Do you know they all live there and they have a motto in Jamaica, ‘Out of many people, one people.’ And they say, ‘Here in Jamaica we are not Chinese, (Make it plain) we are not Japanese, we are not Indians, we are not Negroes, we are not Englishmen, we are not Canadians. But we are all one big family of Jamaicans.’ One day, here in America, I hope that we will see this and we will become one big family of Americans. Not white Americans, not black Americans, not Jewish or Gentile Americans, not Irish or Italian Americans, not Mexican Americans, not Puerto Rican Americans, but just Americans. One big family of Americans.”

Fifty-five years later, it would be well to remind Americans — in the midst of so much unrest in the country — of Dr. King’s words, because Americans are hating one another, destroying each other’s cities, fighting with one another, destroying each other’s livelihood and killing one another.

E pluribus unum, “out of many, one.” That is both a motto and an ideal of the United States, celebrating the differences of Americans, while recognizing that America is one nation. In other words, the motto refers to diversity within unity in America. It is a unity without uniformity. Even to this day, millions of people still believe in America, sharing with King his dream: “One day, here in America, I hope that we will see this and we will become one big family of Americans.”

Source: Martin Luther King, Jr. 4 July 1965. The American Dream. Stanford University: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. [Web:] https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/american-dream-sermon-delivered-ebenezer-baptist-church [Date of access: 8 September 2020]. Italics are mine.

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