“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”
–Martin Luther King, Jr
Martin Luther King Jr delivered his historic speech entitled “I have a dream” during the “March on Washington” on August 28, 1963. African-American slavery was widespread even after the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln in 1863. There was rampant discrimination and segregation across the different states where African-Americans were deprived of their basic rights especially the right to acquire education as major universities did not allow the admission of African Americans to academic institutions. This paved way to the establishment of African American universities and one of them is Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University has a rich history of rallying against racial discrimination. It has produced leaders for Florida and two of them are State Representative Ramon Alexander and Congressman Al Lawson.
State Representative Ramon Alexander is one of the youngest public servant in Florida. He started his career in the Mayor’s Office of the City of Tallahassee. He is passionate about criminal justice particularly the privatization of prison which to his opinion has resulted to abuse of juveniles and corruption. On the other hand, Congressman Al Lawson started his career as a basketball coach. His inspiration to enter public service sprang from his experience as a teenager while in college. He now represents Florida in the US Congress as a member of the Committee in Agriculture.
While speaking with them, my understanding of leadership and public service has been deepened. Many of us take for granted discrimination thinking that it is not the most pressing concern in any country. We think that there are much bigger problems; hunger, poverty, corruption among others.
“We fail to realize how generations of individuals has been left wounded by racial discrimination. In the Philippines, we are left divided by our intolerance of our differences in beliefs. We have disregarded the rights of our muslim and lumad brothers and sisters. We face this issue of discrimination like it has been deeply engraved in our culture as Filipinos.”
For Ramon Alexander and Al Lawson, discrimination brought them to where they are today but discrimination also pushed people into the margins and have deprived them of their basic rights. The call for us, young leaders, is to challenge the system of obvious injustice in order to build a more just and humane society for this generation and the next.
“I also have a dream, I dream of more young leaders who will challenge the comforts of a biased and unjust system and help build a society that will be more tolerant and accepting of differences whether it is a difference in the way we look or difference in our beliefs because after all we are all called to lead and change society for the better.”