Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Where Have You Gone, MLK?

Last Saturday marked the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. King’s words are a great example of an American using his freedom of speech to promote healthy dialogue and encourage change. Speaking to thousands of people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the civil rights activist encouraged an end to racial inequality and discrimination. His words were a call to action that resonated strongly with those before him.

Unlike many of today’s public speeches or announcements, King’s speech was unique in that it did not place blame or use negative language to make a statement. King made it publicly clear that he disagreed with the segregation laws of the United States. Yet, on the day he delivered his most famous address, he never used harsh words to attack or condemn the nation’s government for its mistreatment of the black community. Rather, he identified how the nation had failed to live up to its promise that “all men would be created equal.” Delivered with such dignity and fervor, his words were all that were necessary to inspire listeners to take action in support of racial equality.

So where are the Martin Luther King Jr.’s of today? Where are the great orators of modern society? At the moment, the skills of rhetoric have gone by the wayside. In comparison to the past when speakers like King, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke with such remarkable poise and eloquence, the modern scene lacks the presence of strong, convincing voices. Specifically, it lacks voices that can challenge issues and promote change without resorting to negative language as a means to the end.

This has become a significant problem in the political spectrum. No one can listen to the radio, read the newspaper or turn on the television without negativity crowding the space. Many of today’s public figures, most notably politicians, have become so concerned with maintaining their reputations and supporting allegiances that they have lost sight of their greater responsibilities. The debates between opposing parties have led to continuous bickering and callous discourse. Democrats have essentially waged war on Fox News Channel for its coverage of Democratic policies and its right-leaning bias, and Republicans are in the midst of their own campaign intent on vilifying the current administration. Back and forth, the two parties battle with little ground gained on either side.

What is most unfortunate is that the consistency of poor dialogue among prominent figures is encouraging those listening to speak in the same negative manner.

Supporters of the modern Tea Party movement are examples of Americans mimicking the negative oratory of today’s politicians and talking heads. Some supporters have ludicrously claimed President Obama is not a citizen of the United States. Others have compared the nation’s leader to a jungle savage and Adolf Hitler. These attacks are malicious and defamatory. Although the aim of the movement is to encourage the reduction of the federal government’s power, it is difficult to take it seriously when bitterness and vilification dominate the campaign.

The overwhelming negativity in print and on the airwaves has led to a nation of cynics. How can the public trust that their best interests will be considered when they and those they voted into office are unable to speak without anger and disagreement? There can be no forward progress if there is continued opposition and unwillingness to compromise.

Although the common adage posits that “actions speak louder than words,” words are truly the driving force behind action. In order for any change to take place, whether it is the restoration of America or solving the illegal immigration dilemma or ending gender discrimination, politicians and citizens alike must be mute when it comes to using words that invoke hate or place blame. Instead, one should follow the example set by Martin Luther King Jr. on Aug. 28, 1963. One must look to the past and realize that words have the power to produce visions of what could become reality. As King demonstrated, all it takes is a dream and the right words to effect change.

Bethany Imondi is a sophomore in the College.

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