Dreaming of Fire

This is my Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Day Speech for BSU's 2010 March and Rally. I will be joining student leaders, our Human Rights community and wonderful speakers at Boise City Hall at about 11:15. At noon we will all join the Human Rights Commission inside the Capitol rotunda as they return to the tradition of holding a Human Rights Celebration in the statehouse.

Dreaming of Fire

…To me hope is sometimes a fragile thing. It burned bright
in me a year ago as our country inaugurated a president who embodied the
reality of the Dream. I myself stood on grounds of our nation’s Capitol gazing
at the faces that now comprise our beautiful nation, a nation of colors,
creeds, talents and dreams that are finally passing from sleep into waking.


But today in Idaho I fear the collective light of the Dream
has suffered in the bitter months of this winter… sadly here we face the
chilling anger of people at computers and town halls desperate to place blame
as they stagger too under the weight of profound economic injustice.

We face the chill of Governor Otter’s proposals to
eliminate, to phase out, the few agencies of the state charged with advancing
human rights for Latinos, for people with disabilities, the deaf and the
our Human Rights Commission itself .

Idaho’s Governor rejects the very entities
we have charged with advancing equality and justice for those denied it for so long.


Is that acceptable to us?

Will that help Idaho further the dream?

Will this ensure the fair treatment of people we call
family, coworkers, classmates, and friends ?


No. We know this is wrong. Though it has been four decades,
Dr. King’s words still have the power to warm us and guide our nation from
within — like a bon fire. Sadly in Idaho while the dream often wanes, its
burning pieces are still held by each of us who hope, who work, who stand up in
the streets to protect or welcome others or to instill in our children a tiny
fire of their own.


But inside us Dr. King’s dream, our dream can be a fragile
thing, an ember of fire, a warmth and promise of justice that you — like me —
may have kept from the wind, may have tucked deep in your clothes –carried in
your chest, pulled out and held tight in your hands every time the world around
you faltered, made you unwelcome or fell in its progress toward equality and


And while hope glows in the windows of the white house and
in bits of policy in the nation’s capitol — while we hope for a day when none
will again face bankruptcy in the face of cancer – and while we hope for a day
when families will re-unite, fear will fade, and our country will recognize its
need for the nations and people to the South – that day is not yet here.


…..Instead we look up to a state government set on stalling

We walk streets that bleed harsh words while too many
Idahoans have waited too long, holding embers of hope smothered daily by words
of cruelty – a boy taunted on a playground for his delicate walk; the woman
with her children on a street made unwelcome; a girl trying in vain to get
beyond the stairs; a driver arrested for his differences, his color; the man demonized not
for actions but for the accent on his tongue. —-When our daily experiences
stifle the dream, we grow cold, isolated and the ember of that promise can fade
inside us.


I ask one thing of each of you today………. We can be a state
kinder than our policy makers. We can ourselves create a state of promise in
spite of those who would divide us, those who would marginalize or demean those
we love or care for, our neighbors, coworkers, family, friends.


I ask you to practice using your own voice, your breath to
erase the cold someone you know has felt. Think of someone who has faced hate,
who has stood in the face of discrimination.

Think. Picture that person now, see him or her in your mind.
(It is OK if that person in your mind is you.) I want you in your mind to
say to that person, to someone you have met, or seen or know…….


“You — your presence, your voice, your work, your
questions..”  I want you to say: “You
make our state a better place.”


Now whisper that aloud with me, look around, say that to
every person here who has reeled in the face of harsh or cruel words…… “You
make our state a better place.”


In your minds eye, your words, your breath, think of it
igniting that ember of hope just a little in a person’s hands, your words in
their mind replacing words of rejection they have faced once, twice, maybe
many, many times.


Say it again with me, to each other, this time louder. “You
make our state a better place.”


OK one last time, this time let’s make sure Senator Malepeai
can hear us inside the Capitol. Let’s have our words carry North to the Coeur
d’Alene & Nez Perce tribes, South to the Shoshone Paiute, East to the
Shoshone Bannock, West to Nampa, Caldwell, Wilder, high into the mountains and
to the place the person in your mind can hear us……..

“You make our state a better place.”

Thank you. Now use that phrase in the streets when you see
someone face cruel gestures of unwelcome. Keep Dr. King’s Dream warm, keep it
burning in Idaho — through everything that is to come, through what we each
will see and feel and do in our lives ahead.


May we be strong and united and may we never ever give our
seats or our voices to those who would take them.



One thought on “Dreaming of Fire

  1. Chryssa - January 18, 2010

    Nicole, great speech today. Thank you for calling out Gov. Otter on his reckless financial decisions.

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