Students stood in the footsteps of history this spring. After exploring the Lincoln Memorial, marveling at its massive columns and the 19-foot marble statue of Abraham Lincoln, students from Woodland Hills Junior High School found themselves standing on an inscription.
“Whoa, this is it? This is the actual spot?”, one student asked. Another commented, “I can’t believe I’m standing here. This is amazing!” Their tour leader asked if the students would like to read a portion of the speech that Martin Luther King Jr. recited on August 28, 1963. The students accepted the cards, each with words from the “I Have a Dream” speech on one side and a picture from that day on the other.
Timidly, one student began reading the words in the direction of her friend, cautiously smiling for reassurance. The tour leader asked her to stop, to turn toward the reflection pool, and to think of the more than 200,000 people who gathered on that day to hear these words.
The student paused for a moment, and boldly began again:
” But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
“Wow,” she said in an almost whisper. It was the next student’s turn. Several onlookers had gathered to listen. He stepped onto the words of the inscription, took a deep breath, and said:
“And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
The student slowly lowered his arms and took a long look out over the reflection pool.
It’s hard to know the moments during travel that create long-lasting positive impact on a student’s life. But this may have been one of those moments, a point in time that made the entire trip worthwhile.
Listen to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech here.