IN AUGUST OF 1963, as he stepped up to the lectern of history to deliver his monumental “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was introduced as “the moral leader of our nation.” Today, nearly 50 years later, the moral courage and conviction of Dr. King’s words seem to ring out as resonant as ever from many a valley and hill and mountaintop — and from the modern prominent perch that is Google’s search homepage.
Google celebrates today’s Martin Luther King “Day of Service” holiday with a logo that features the preaching civil-rights leader, and that is ringed with a few of that speech’s inspiring passages. Speaking with the Lincoln Memorial as historic backdrop, King sonorously intoned: “I have a dream 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.”
One of those “four little children” — Martin Luther King III — is now president of the King Center, which today is making 200,000 of the Nobel Prize winner’s documents available for the first time online, at TheKingCenter.org (the project includes notes from that March of Washington speech).
Today’s “Google Doodle” was created by the Harlem-born artist and author Faith Ringgold , a professor emeritus at UCSD and “story quilter” whose first book, “Tar Beach,” received the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration. Ringgold’s children’s books include “My Dream of Martin Luther King,” and her Doodle fittingly depicts several young faces.
The Doodle also includes the words “We shall overcome someday.” Not only did King deliver those words in speeches, of course, but the protest song “We Shall Overcome” became an anthem of the civil-rights movement — sung even by folk singer Joan Baez during that 200,000-strong “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”
The Google Doodle’s figures are also joined by the red, white and blue ribboning of unity — a visual symbol that speaks to King’s calls for brotherhood and equality. Today’s is the eighth Doodle that Google has published to mark the King holiday (all the previous logos can be viewed here).
King’s March on Washington speech invokes the word “dream” nearly a dozen times, like a call-to-action echo. “For the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dreaming was not optional,” Post columnist Gene Robinson wrote last week. “It was a requirement of citizenship to envision a fairer, more prosperous nation no longer shackled by racism and poverty. It was a duty to imagine a world no longer ravaged by senseless wars.
“His famous speech was less an invitation to share his epic dream than a commandment.”
King was born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929, but his holiday is observed on the third Monday of January. Martin Luther King Jr. Day began in 1976 — 18 years after his death by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis — but has only been celebrated in all 50 states since 2000.
As a Baptist minister who valued the teachings of Gandhi, King preached nonviolence as he helped lead the Montgomery (Ala.) bus boycott in 1955 and became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (In 2010, a Google Doodle honored civil-right figure Rosa Parks, whose refusal to surrender her seat spurred the boycott.)
In 1964, King became the youngest person ever to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received for his work to end racial discrimination and segregation.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington opened to the public last year. Last week, responding to a Post editorial and the subsequent fallout, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the National Park Service 30 days to decide on a new version of a truncated quote that reportedly was shortened to fit on the memorial (a change said to be supported by Martin Luther King III). The line, in an over-aggrandizing fashion, currently misreads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”
The holiday weekend is marked by countless tributes. On Sunday, wreaths were placed at the memorial and onlookers reportedly sang “Happy birthday.” On the eve of the holiday, the first family paid tribute as they attended Washington’s Zion Baptist.
The Rev. King did not reach the promised land that he envisioned, but as Faith Ringgold conveys on Google today, the preacher with a dream traveled many miles to illuminate the rest of the way.