Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a masterpiece that’s well worth re-visiting. It’s like a diamond—created under enormous pressure and precious beyond expression. Each time I come back to it, I’m dazzled by a different facet and find myself speechless. That’s how I know it’s part of something bigger and more beautiful than its individual words.
This time, when I re-read “I Have a Dream,” the following few lines jumped out at me:
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now…Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
The phrase “the fierce urgency of now” kept running through my mind until it crashed into a passage of scripture I had been reading earlier. In this story from the Book of Mormon, a group of poverty-stricken people come to a prophet for words of hope, strength, and comfort. Here’s what they’re told:
“Behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if [you] will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately…the great plan of redemption [will] be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:31-32)
In other words, these people needed to shift their attention—from some far-off day of salvation to the incredible potential of the present moment.
Both Dr. King and the Book of Mormon warn us against focusing on changes that will happen some time in the future. And so, instead of hoping for justice someday, we need to focus on what we can do today to make changes, no matter what they might look like or how small they might seem.
When we allow ourselves to be filled with the “fierce urgency of now,” we open our eyes to powerful changes we can make in our lives and in the world around us right here, right now. Sure, these daily changes might not feel as important as the sweeping changes we imagined happening in the future. But if we try to make some sort of meaningful change every day—if we can do something to promote justice for the vulnerable and comfort those who are hurting—then that far-off future day will be even better and far brighter than we had imagined.
May we all feel the “fierce urgency of now” and commit to changing ourselves and our world for the better—to help make justice a reality for all of God’s children. Now is the time.