Maha was in the first grade and I picked her up from school and we went to Raynulds Club for lunch. As we were waiting in line for our pizza, she looked up at me and said, “Daddy, am I white or black?”. Slightly startled, I looked down and said, Uh, light brown? Why do you ask? “Well”, she continued in the measured tone of a 6 year old, “once upon a time, people who were black or white could not even have lunch together. So, you couldn’t even have lunch with me because you are darker than I am and you and mommy couldn’t even have married. Isn’t that so mean?” Damn mean. “Daddy, Martin Luther King was a great man. He told people that they should not be mean to black or brown people and so now you can have lunch with me”. Exactly. To those who question the necessity of honoring MLK one day a year, I give you the 6 year old who discovers that there is evil in this world but that good, true good, shall always overcome.
And I want to say tonight (applause), I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed (All right), I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960 (Well), when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
If I had sneezed (Yes), I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.
If I had sneezed (Yes), I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.
If I had sneezed (applause), if I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had. (Yes)
If I had sneezed (applause), I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. (Yes)I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.
And they were telling me, (applause) now it doesn’t matter now. (Go ahead) It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”
And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead (Amen). But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop (Yeah [applause]). And I don’t mind (applause continues). Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will (Yeah). And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. (Go ahead) And I’ve looked over (Yess sir). And I’ve seen the Promised Land. (Go ahead) I may not get there with you. (Go ahead) But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get will get to the Promised Land!([applause] Go ahead. Go ahead). And so I’m happy, tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. (applause)