What Has Become of the Dream?

"Behold, the dreamer cometh. Let us slay him...and see what becomes of the dream." -- Genesis 37:19-20. This month marks the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

On April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was gunned down by an assassin's bullet -- Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech at Riverside Church in New York City. The war in Vietnam was nearing its peak. More than 6,000 U.S. soldiers had already died, and hundreds more were dying every week. Vietnamese military casualties were even higher. How many Vietnamese civilians had already died was anybody's guess. The final figure would be close to four million, 10 percent of the population of Vietnam.

The war had also taken its toll at home. The poverty program that began the decade -- and which quickened its pace under a president with a genuine commitment to the poor and to full racial equality under the law -- was irrevocably and permanently derailed by the spiraling cost of military conflict half a world away. The man whose leadership gave the war on poverty its birth would soon be forced from office, after serving only one full term, by the opposition of large segments of American society to the war. And the great society he envisioned became, and still is, an idea that failed, a buzzword for the unrealistic dreams of people who just don't understand how the marketplace works.

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