( Please note that this is slightly tongue-in-cheek – for those few among us who might otherwise take this a little too seriously 😉 )
I am happy to join with you today in what may go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of man.
Five score years ago, (and fifty years more), a great man, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Nudists who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Nudist still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Nudist is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Nudist lives on a lonely island of shameful nudity in the midst of a vast ocean of textile domination. One hundred years later, the Nudist is still languished in the corners of modern society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we’ve come to this nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our state wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every man was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, nudist men as well as clothed men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that the world has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of skin are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, this world has given the Nudists a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind everybody of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of naked justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of naked injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of our children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Nudist’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. This year is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Nudist needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the world returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in the world until the Nudist is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nations until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Nudist community must not lead us to a distrust of all clothed people, for many of our clothed brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Nudist is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the Nudist’s basic mobility is from a smaller club ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: “For Textiles Only.”* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Nudist in town cannot vote naked and a Nudist in the country believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to your homes, go back to your towns, go back to your mountains, go back to your lakes, go back to your clubs, go back to the spas and ghettos of our clothed cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the modern dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on these wide lands of ours, the sons of former Nudists and the sons of former Textiles will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the city of Freiburg, a city sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my two not-so-little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the texture of their clothing but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in the courthouse, with its vicious textiles, with its judge having his lips dripping with the words of “shame” and “exhibitionism” — one day right there in our own home town, little naked boys and naked girls will be able to join hands with little clothed boys and clothed girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back home with.
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.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of our children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers dressed, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if we are to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of the New World.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of the Old World.
Let freedom ring from the heightening coastlines of Portugal.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped alps of Switzerland.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of Italy.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from the Stone Mountains of Russia.
Let freedom ring from the Country of Turkey.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of France.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
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 our children, Nudists and Textiles, Blacks and Whites, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Nudist spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank goodness, we are naked at last!
( An original online version of MLK’s truly inspiring speech may be found here )