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A look back at Dr. King’s dream, 60 years later

Sixty years ago this August, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what has become his most famous speech. I may be willing to say that it is probably the most well-known speech in modern history. Most people only remember the climax of Dr. King’s famous speech. Recital of the “I Have a Dream” portion of Dr. King’s speech has become a staple in grade schools across the nation. More often than not, those recitals start with these words,

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Though this riff eventually became the known title of the speech, the “I Have a Dream” crescendo was delivered extemporaneously. History denotes that one of the speech’s original titles was: “A Canceled Check”— I am willing to bet that most people have no idea why. We find evidence of this in the actual words of the speech, which most often go unquoted:


In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”


It is against this backdrop that we must judge King and come to understand the reality as opposed to the dream we all hold dear. Often, “the dream” is considered an individualized endeavor. We tend to think that we can pursue our passions independently. But Dr. King’s “dream” wasn’t focused on individual pursuits and accomplishments. It was encapsulated in the notion that we will succeed or fail together. He specifically addressed issues of equity and disparity, en masse. One issue that we continue to face is the disparity of hospice care usage among culturally diverse populations.


As Duke Divinity School Professor Richard Payne once stated,

“African Americans and other minorities are at greater risk of not dying well.”


Nationally, usage rates of end-of-life care for African Americans lag greatly behind that of their Caucasian counterparts. The NHPCO Facts and Figures 2020 edition notes that, according to national Medicare statistics, 50.7 percent of Medicare recipients utilize Hospice care overall. Of those 50.7%; 82% are Caucasian and only 8.2% are African American. As Duke Divinity School Professor Richard Payne once stated, “African Americans and other minorities are at greater risk of not dying well.”


Arkansas Hospice. continues to honor Dr. King’s legacy, as we seek to make a difference in this area. With help from the Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation, the Arkansas Hospice Foundation, and various partners throughout the state, we’ve been able to share hospice care information with many culturally diverse communities in rural Arkansas. We’ve conducted workshops in eight geographically diverse areas, surveying 115 unique participants. We are proud of the efforts we’re making, but there’s yet greater work to do. Help us to turn the tide together! Give us the opportunity to engage in equity, then we can be true bearers of “The Dream.”


If you are interested in learning more about hospice care, palliative care, advance directives, or other minority healthcare concerns for those experiencing life-limiting conditions, please schedule an interactive educational session for your community group or congregation through our Faith, Hospice Love program or by contacting Minority Outreach Coordinator Kyle Jones today. Qualifying participants could receive a $50 Walmart gift card.




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