I Have A Dream, Too

by Lorien E. Menhennett

In addition to this blog, I also post frequently (and keep a “diary“) on OldPreMeds.com (OPM), a forum dedicated to non-traditional pre-med and med students. Recently, there was a thread on OPM about race and disparities in health care. This thread evoked strong emotions and opinions from many OPM members. It got me thinking about this issue, and brought up significant emotions in me, too. I don’t normally double-post things on both OPM and this blog, but I want to share here what I wrote on that thread, in the hopes that it will inspire people to think about this issue, and even more so, to do something about it, if only in small ways:

As I write this post, I am weeping. Because this thread has reminded me oh-so-clearly that we live in a world where inequality, rather than equality, is the rule. Where the color of a person’s skin, or how much money they have in the bank, determines so much about their quality of life, the quality of their education, the quality of their health care. That breaks my heart. Because it is absolutely not right. There is no arguing with that.

I want to thank you for bringing these issues up in our community here on OPM. Because we are a community, and one of the roles of a community is to come together – not necessarily in agreement, but at least in discussion – on significant issues. And this is one of those issues.

I am white. I cannot pretend to know what it is like to experience the hurt that people who are minorities experience, sometimes on a daily basis. The cumulative effect of that pain, I cannot even fathom. No platitudes I have to offer will make that disappear.

So this morning, I turn to someone who knew that pain, who lived with it day by day, and who chose to confront this issue of inequality in a way that was so offensive to the racist element of our country that he died for his cause.

We all know snippets of Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have A Dream” speech. But it had been years since I had really read these powerful words. I offer a lesser-known quotation from his speech in the hopes that his dream can become ours, and that we can work together, even in small ways, to bring it to pass. Someday. So that, as MLK said, “one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Here is what I have to share from MLK’s speech. Here is what brought me to tears – tears which will not stop – this morning:

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Is this a pipe dream, an unachievable goal? I have to believe, to hope, that it is not.

Separately, we are each but one person. But together, we are a community. And like it or not, many of us will someday be in positions of influence and power, of some sort or another. I hope we each choose to use that influence and power wisely, so that it makes a positive impact, if not upon the world as a whole, at least upon individual lives. That is, at least, a place to start.

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