The United States of America – commonly referred to simply as America – is more than a nation.
America is an idea founded upon an ideal.
This ideal is that we are all equal in the eyes of our Creator.
This does not mean that we are all equally talented or wealthy, but that, in the eyes of our Creator, we are all equally human.
This was revolutionary at the time America was founded. European-based society back then was very hierarchical. There was typically a king, and people had to get up early to have everything ready for him when he got up. Other people had to get up even earlier to get things ready for those people. Servants helped their masters get ready to serve their masters, and so on. And this was the case not just in Europe, but around the world!
In that world, the founders of this nation put boldly onto paper the principle that even the most humble servant was, in the eyes of God, the equal of the most powerful monarch.
Implicit in this was the logical conclusion that these words would some day apply to all humanity, men and women of all origin and ethnicity.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., understood this. He knew, as he was leading the civil rights movement, that he was cashing in on a promise made nearly two centuries earlier, and that doing so would benefit all humanity for all time to come.
And make no mistake about it: as this nation’s founders were signing that revolutionary document, they were signing a warrant for their own death should they fail to deliver on the initial installment of that promise: our Declaration of Independence was more than treasonous in the eyes of King George III; it was and still is a challenge to the entire existing world order.
Today, a person can move to Poland, learn to speak Polish, adopt the customs and ways of the people there, and even become a citizen of Poland. But a person of Asian or African descent will never truly be Polish. Similarly, a person from Europe or Africa can move to Vietnam, learn to speak Vietnamese and adopt the culture of the people in that nation, even becoming a citizen, but that new citizen will never truly be Vietnamese.
In sharp contrast, anyone can come to America, and, along with learning the language of this country and becoming a citizen, that person can truly become an American, simply by believing in the idea that is America, and by striving for the ideal upon which America was founded.
It is striving for this ideal, and living in the freedom which it has brought, that has made America the greatest country in the history of the world. This is what has made America a light for the world, a beacon of hope shining in the darkness of the fear, oppression, and poverty that have plagued humanity through the ages.
We must remember this every day, and every day we must seek to restore America and renew the struggle to move toward this ideal.
Because if we don’t – if we allow the light to go out here in America – the whole world will fall into a new dark age, and it will be to Heaven alone that we will have to look for equality and freedom.