Martin Luther King Jr. was born a few months before I was. His resounding and inspiring voice was cruelly snuffed out in the ascendancy of his career. I’ve been privileged to live into the present day. I salute his memory, his wisdom, his experiences, his leadership, and his ability to inspire new generations beyond his living years. Those of us who identify with his message recognize that we share his dream.

I did not live most of his experiences, completely immersed in my own struggles, yet I empathize, even feel the impact of the reality that he lived. I was not permeated with religious faith. This must be very important to believe strongly in a better place, somewhere, someday, because the struggle against the day to day here and now adversity that we encounter is so powerful and even, perhaps, so hopeless. Faith for me was less essential. I knew little adversity; just normal WPA depression upbringing. I didn’t feel subjected to any discrimination, much less fear or suspicion or hatred.

I sang with the other Presbyterian Sunday Schoolers, “We are precious in His sight: red and yellow, black and white.” Diversity made sense to me. I grieved for and prayed for my Japanese schoolmates who had been whisked off to the Tulelake internment camp. I lived in a multicultural neighborhood, and chose my friends for their compatibility and similar interests. We focused a lot on the environment at our John Muir School which especially inspired respect for the endangered Redwoods. I still share, along with millions of others, concern about the plight of endangered mother earth.

Respect is the keyword! This is perhaps the most important word of all. It comes before Peace! It comes before Liberty or Justice or Freedom or Rights! Before all of the ideals to which we aspire! More than love and caring and compassion. The first thing that must be established in one’s heart and mind is to respect others for the individuals that they are, and to acknowledge their right to be themselves and to live in peace, unmolested, and allowed to follow their own dream. If only each of us could accord all others this basic right we would indeed have peace on earth.

Unfortunately, the powerful do not see it this way. The key word for them is not respect; it is control! I am cringing with shame at the behavior of the U.S. Government: of the Bush administration, most particularly! I am ashamed that the Bushites and corporations are spending millions of dollars on an inaugural gala while millions of people in this country and around the world suffer and do without. This is absolutely without decency or conscience!

And those of us who would protest this shameful extravagance will not be heard! We are to be barricaded away from the celebration for fear that we will disrupt the disgusting proceedings. Let’s hear it for respect! Where should respect begin? With the people? With the leadership?

I have a dream! My dream is also, as Martin proclaimed, that people are recognized for the content of their character, and not for the color of their skin, but more than that! They must be recognized for the truth of their voices! They must be recognized just because they are human beings upon this earth, deserving of respect. There must be first of all…respect. Kofi Annan says we have an obligation to respect the rights of those who are endangered. The hungry must be respected! The threatened must be respected! The unemployed, the homeless, the ill, the uneducated. Respect must include the right of self-determination for all of the peoples of the world. Nature itself is devastating enough; why must human beings plague other human beings? This is shameful, immoral!

My dream is that respect will at last permeate all of the lands, and all of the hearts in this world, beginning with the hearts of persons who are attending the out-of-context, incongruous, Washington, DC spectacle, almost in the very spot from which you made your famous speech. This shameful spectacle is sticking like an arrogant finger in the eye of the watching world.

I, too, have a dream, Martin! I salute you! And I salute all dreamers of your dream! May your dream and mine, and the dreams of all of us lovers of peace and happiness come true!. But first of all, may our dreams of respect for ourselves and for all the other people on the face of this earth come true. This is where it will begin.