In 1963, thousands of civil rights activists from many parts of the United States joined the march on Washington, D.C., to protest ongoing racial discrimination. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to the 250,000 people gathered. The eloquent 34-year-old Baptist minister shared his doctrine of nonviolent civil disagreement, calling on state and federal leaders to end discrimination in voting, education, employment, and other areas. Now widely regarded as one of the most significant orations in American history, the vision of “I Have a Dream” still resonates here and abroad.
Fast forward fifty years. Martin Luther King Day is now a national holiday celebrated on the third Monday of January. We honor the courage and conviction of King, and celebrate our progress toward ending racial discrimination. Many communities support MLK Day with volunteer events and encourage service projects to help cross racial and economic divides. Others bring local leaders together to continue the work that began many years ago.
Inequality and inequity remain issues in our society. With a more diverse population than ever before, incidents of discrimination persist. Despite the fact that many barriers have been broken, there are more to overcome. It is fitting that we take this moment to honor the past while looking to the future, to our dream.
Teaching for Tomorrow
Whether you teach preschoolers or high school seniors, you can draw inspiration and feed classroom discussions by looking at the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Many of the topics King spoke about overlap with issues you’re likely already discussing in class—bullying, moving bystanders to action, tolerance, acceptance of differences, and more.
The idea of serving the needs of others is a constant in King’s work. Service projects are an excellent way to involve students. When you do service projects, take some class time to reflect on the process, and talk about how helping others builds empathy and understanding.
What Dreams Do Your Students Have?
Ask your students, what dream do they have? How would it improve someone’s life? What will it take to make that dream come true? Make a list of their dreams and revisit them later in the year. Please comment below and share the dreams of your students. Putting a thought into action starts with sharing the idea with others.
We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.
What you don’t know about MLK’s “Dream” speech, video and speech text from ABC News online.
Martin Luther King Day, resources and lesson plans from Education World.
I Have a Dream: Exploring Nonviolence in Young Adult Texts, from Read Write Think.
Martin Luther King Jr Resources for Teachers from TeacherVision.
I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. by Michael Eric Dyson (young adult, adult)
M.L.K.: The Journey of a King by Tonya Boldon (upper elementary)
A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler and Robert Casilla (young children)