Where is Dr. King's dream? In the hearts and minds of our children

During February, I spent two days doing something I had trained to do more than 50 years ago, but had not done so in almost as many years: I talked with public school children, from pre-K to fifth grade, about art and history. And it was a pleasant and enlightening experience.

 

The invitation came from Drs. Dana Harris, at Bayvale Elementary School, and Verma Curtis, at Wheeless Road Elementary School.

I'M STILL TRYING to figure out why those kids got me so excited. Maybe it was their innocence, their willingness to learn, their agape -type love and their energy. Or maybe it was their manners -- something we adults seem to lose along the way.

Yes, that's what it was. All of the above.

Many of them are learning these traits and getting a head start at an early age, where most learning takes place and where the foundation is laid. During my 27 years in construction, I never saw a foundation poured and laid after the steel erection took place. The foundation, the most critical part of any building, always came first, then the remainder.

So it is with our children. We must invest more money, not less, in the educational foundation of our children, a major component.

During this state's budget crisis, the easiest places to cut funding are those places where there is less resistance. Our children cannot lobby or advocate for themselves. And those of us without children don't care one way or another.

Gov. Nathan Deal is making major cuts in his pre-K program budget proposal -- a major mistake, in my estimation. The governor is putting the cart before the horse. He seems to be less concerned about the foundation of our educational system than he is about other areas of the budget.

I am just one voice appealing to the governor to look elsewhere for funds to balance the budget. Don't do it on the backs of our children. They are our future. Let's give them every advantage we can that will equip them to deal effectively with the challenges and opportunities of their time. The way things are looking now, that time is going to very difficult for them, even with the help that they are now getting from the state.

If only we adults could reflect on our own childhood days and see ourselves, as we once were, similar to the children I saw at Bayvale and Wheeless Road, maybe we could recapture that innocence, that agape love, that willingness to learn, that energy.

OFTEN WE BELITTLE children and denigrate their characters when we say that adults are "acting like children." We wish. If only we could get adults to act like children, we would have a much better world.

Somewhere along the way, things are messed up when children start acting like adults. Unlike children, adults can do some crazy, destructive things -- build bombs to blow up the world, fight wars, kill babies, hate, lie, cheat and a lot more.

We just got through celebrating Black History Month, which was a big part of my reason for being at Bayvale and Wheeless Road. One of the great men of my time was the Rev. Martin Luther king, Jr., a giant among men. I have a special admiration for any man who is willing to lay down his life for a worthy cause, and does, as in the case of Dr. King. There haven't been many in my lifetime I can think of who were willing to pay such a high price for what he believed in.

In his most famous speech, Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, among other dreams he had that day was the dream that one day "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

That dream is a reality today, from what I saw at Bayvale and Wheeless Road.

But what about the other dreams of Dr. King's, "that one day this nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed," that "sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood," 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"?

Those dreams have not been fully realized -- and may not be in my lifetime -- but that doesn't mean that we should give up trying to make them a reality. One of the famous writers of the early 20th century, Langston Hughes, wrote a short poem suggesting what might happen to a dream deferred:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up?

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore --

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over -- like a syrupy sweet

Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

ARE YOUR DREAMS drying up? Festering? Stinking? Or crusting or sugaring over? Or sagging? Or will they one day explode?

(The writer is a former Augusta City Council member and a retired labor relations manager from Bechtel Savannah River Inc.)

 

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