#MySDGDream: Realizing Dr. King’s Dream Through Generations of Change

As the nation and the world commemorate “the dreamer”, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and “the dream on the National King Day 2021,” we stand on the cusp of a critical time in our history. It is a time when the background is a mosaic of triumphs and tragedies.  Tragedies of slavery, internment camps, world wars, segregation, apartheid, racism, discrimination, voter suppression and intimidation, injustices against humanity, and violence. These have been the social ills which people of conscience have fought against for centuries. These have been the scourges of our societies. Yet we must not forget there also have been triumphs: Triumphs of the dismantling of apartheid, Jim Crow. Triumphs of multilateralism among nations and the establishment of international organizations for international cooperation. Triumphs of developing a global plan for the future of our world, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or “Global Goals” for short. Triumphs of recognizing that civil rights are human rights, that environmental issues are human issues, that women’s rights are human rights, that democracy tested has been democracy realized.

It was upon such a backdrop 75 years ago that the United Nations was chartered in the words, “We the peoples of the United Nations determined…to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war…”, and other such as we have witnessed. It was upon such a backdrop as these social ills that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, was adopted affirming: “Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom….”

Today, on the cusp of crises, we stand. And how we stand will determine our future as a nation and as a world. It is a time for renewed vision and seeing more clearly the 21st century and beyond challenges. And we draw strength from the foundation of Dr. King’s audacious dream, building on the Universal Declaration, when he stated, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up…”

On this Dr. Martin Luther King Day, let us continue to be audacious. Let us continue to dare to demand the dream become reality and be for all. So we, each of us, affirm #MySDGDream. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are interrelated and interdependent. Today, begin by asserting your commitment to one of them, knowing your work to achieve one will bring us closer to achieving all 17. Begin by asserting your role in determining the future of our nation and our world. Begin by joining with millions throughout the United Nations Associations and the world to stand up, speak out, and — as Mahatma Gandhi implored us — “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

We are all beneficiaries of Dr. King’s dream, of the United Nations’ vision, of “the hope and dream” of our forefathers and foremothers, as Dr. Maya Angelou wrote. We are all part and parcel of the Sustainable Development Goals because, as Dr. King famously said, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

My parents walked beside Dr. King, Mrs. Rosa Parks, and the thousands of foot soldiers. I remember Dr. King and the host of civil rights leaders convening before and after the marches at my parents’ house and church in Detroit, Michigan, so I was baptized in that spring of hope. I carried that hope with me when I marched in the 50th anniversary March on Washington, and worked with Mrs. Coretta Scott King as Director of the King Association. I teach and continue to teach new generations about the struggle and the strength of courage and the moral compass of social justice.

Today, the foreboding words of Dr. King still echo throughout generations that “we have difficult days ahead,” even in a new century. With each passing day, we go forward more committed, more strengthened, more confident that the dream can and must become reality, that we can overcome what may confront us, and we can make a better world for all people for generations to come.