We Need to Dream
by Mattie J.T. Stepanek 

On this page is an excerpt from Mattie’s “Just Peace book.

This 7-paragraph e-mail was written more than a decade ago as an outline for a school assignment. The message Mattie shared so many years ago is still relevant —  and needed — today.

Please take a few minutes to read these thoughts from Mattie.

This is one of the last messages Mattie ever wrote. He was not strong enough to complete the essay he planned in this e-mail. But his passion for and love for all of humanity never wavered, and I believe that today, he is kneeling in prayer — with hope, for peace.

The website version of this excerpt is below.

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E-mail from: Mattie J.T. Stepanek
Sent: January 06, 2004 2:09 PM EST
To: Jeni Stepanek
Subject: We Need to Dream

My ideas for an essay that would recognize the
lasting impact of Martin Luther King Jr. on the
national holiday commemorating his noble work:

To begin, I will provide a brief overview of the reality of racism, including definitions and examples from the past and the present. As this section develops, I will briefly review King’s life, including who he was as a person, what he stated to be his dream, and why his dream mattered so much. To conclude this section, I will pose the question,

“Has King’s ‘dream’ been realized, not merely recognized, by people across time?”

The middle section of this essay will include my personal recognition and realization of the fact of racism, which continues to be a cause of conflict and inequity for too many people, whether many people choose to acknowledge this reality or not. I will discuss when I first became aware of the issue of race, which was while I was riding the bus to school in kindergarten and listening to conversations of other children, who often repeat what they hear in their homes. I will also discuss my fear and anger when I learned about the ongoing existence of the Ku Klux Klan, which I would have assumed could have, or should have, been embarrassed into nothingness decades ago. This section will continue with thoughts and reflections I have based on what I have read, seen, heard, learned, and come to understand through academic study, personal experience, and contemplative prayer.

I will conclude this section of the essay with my opinion of the current situation of racism. For example, while many, perhaps most, people want to consider racism an issue of the past, too often we use words like “we” and “they” when referring to racial identity, which can only perpetuate divisive attitudes and be the source of ongoing conflict. In addition, there is so much anger that affects our inner feelings, and therefore our attitudes, habits, and interactions with those around us, as we interpret and respond to community and world events that resonate the sad reality of inequity and injustice.

The conclusion of this essay must be very powerful. It will begin by reiterating that Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, and although most of us recognize the importance of this dream, the reality of it remains shrouded by ongoing and often hidden, or even unintended, attitudes and words and actions of prejudice. My conclusion will be that King’s dream has not been realized, just recognized, and while recognition is an essential step toward resolution, it is not enough to make his dream a reality. Our understanding and efforts toward the elimination of racism must be more than a study in black and white. Rather, we must examine all areas of gray.

Our world is multicolored, multihued, and multi-issued. It is not acceptable to enable or perpetuate “we” and “they” attitudes, habits, and interactions that become the essence of our reality. We must build bridges. We must dab our collective fingers into the waters of change. We must begin the ripples of realization from recognition, and not let the waves fade. We must keep dabbing, creating waves of change that will take dreams of equity into ongoing realities of justice and peace. To realize King’s dream, we cannot merely be satisfied with improvement. We must be committed to ongoing change, based in accurate understanding of the past, sensitive awareness of the present, and prudent wisdom for the unfolding needs of the future.

We can never truly resolve an issue, like racism, if an aspect of it is minimized, ignored, or overlooked. Instead, we must bravely join together in our exploration, understanding, and elimination of racism, without anger, without pride, without aggression, and without embellishment. There is motivation enough in the facts. We can make King’s dream a reality, if we are united in hope, in humility, in assertiveness, and in accuracy. It is “us” that stops “us” from putting an end to racism, and honoring and realizing the work and dream of Martin Luther King Jr. And so, let it be “us” that furthers “us” in fairness, in justice, in equality, which is true peace. We, the people of all races, are the roots of future humanity, recognizing the need for change, and bringing about the reality of the future, filled with dreams come true.

I have a dream that one day, we will all come together as a family in the human race for equality. I have a dream that one day, we will truly throw down our weapons, and love our differences. We will not fight, but neither will we erase history, or be blindly ignorant to that which has already unfolded. We will not be afraid, nor will we be angry, nor will we hate, nor will we be the cause of any suffering. We will be united in hope. I have a dream that we shall overcome, so that one day we can truly hold hands as one family, with all the colors of God’s rainbow of life unfolding like a majestic tapestry, woven with threads of justice. I have a dream that one day we shall recognize and realize a “just peace,” and proclaim in one voice to all of the earth,

“Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty,
King’s dream has come true, and we are free at last!”

Mattie J.T. Stepanek
January 6, 2004

Excerpt from “Just Peace: A Message of Hope”
by Mattie J.T. Stepanek with Jimmy Carter
edited by Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D. (AMP, 2006)


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For more information about the late teen
poet and peace activist Mattie J.T. Stepanek
or the Foundation that continues to further
Mattie’s message and mission of peace,
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