by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
“I Have a Dream”
by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…..
This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
“Saving the Life That Is Your Own: The Importance of Models in the Artist’s Life”
by Alice Walker, from In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens
“It is, in the end, the saving of lives that we writers are about. Whether we are ‘minority’ writers or ‘majority.’ It is simply in our power to do this…. We care because we know this: the life we save is our own.”
Alice Paul, women’s suffragist:
“There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it.”
Many people talk about dreams, but aren’t quite sure what it might look like to live a life in pursuit of a dream.
Having a dream defies rationality. It makes you do things that could cause confusion and upset. It requires a kind of discipline and perseverance that a lot of people don’t have. Most of our culture lives under the guidelines that you should bow your head and do as you’re told, operate under the same set of assumptions and circumstances as the majority. Don’t ruffle feathers. Don’t make change. Don’t do anything weird. It upsets the order of things.
But Love, which is what most dreams stem from, is about upsetting the order of things. Because sometimes the order is a little messed up.
The only truth you can live is your own. Yours is the only life you have power over.
God gave it to you for a reason. You are not here by accident.
As a teacher, I spent a lot of time talking about novels and short stories and art, about what we can glean from complicated tales. I taught about historical figures who made headway, or believed in something.
I didn’t teach these things because it was “part of the curriculum.” That’s not the kind of teacher I am. I taught these things because I wanted to give young people hope. I wanted to enliven them, excite them, inspire them, make them discover what could be possible in their own lives. I wanted to give them an avenue of knowledge that helped them recognize they did not have to be held back.
But I don’t want to just stand aside and hand the reigns to others to handle what I see are the problems of our world. I want to be a part of that change, too. And I will be. I am not God, and I cannot do everything. But I can do my part.
The dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. had was a big one. Some parts were realized in his lifetime, but most of it is still under siege. We are still living that dream, and we need new leaders to take hold of it and move it forward.
On paper, it didn’t “make sense” for black and white people to sit together at a lunch counter and stay still while they were attacked and covered with food and ketchup. It didn’t make sense to put themselves in harm’s way and let angry white people beat them up.
But the people who did these things believed in their cause and their mission, and they believed in themselves. They believed in something greater, something that would benefit people in the long-term. And they were willing, even, to go to prison or die for it.
It may not have “made sense” for Alice Paul to have herself repeatedly thrown in jail. But she thought women deserved the right to vote. And she didn’t give up on that belief, even when it meant she went without food. She felt it imperative to do her part.
It didn’t make sense for F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby, which made him no money and got him no recognition in his lifetime. He died feeling like a failure.
Making any sort of positive impact on the world requires belief, not strict rationality. It requires belief in a mission, and it requires belief in oneself. (It also, often, requires belief in a divine creator. Because this shit is hard. You need help.)
You need to believe in yourself even when others don’t support you. Even when people begin to turn away.
Don’t give up, dear ones.
Stay true to your convictions, even when—especially when—people don’t understand.
Let Love be the underbelly of what you do. Let it guide you, even when that guidance feels hard.
Hold fast to Love, no matter what anyone says or thinks.
Love is worth fighting for.