A Future for the Present
Justo L. González
I met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on February 17, 1962. It was in Puerto Rico during my very first year of teaching. He had been invited to Puerto Rico by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and, simply because I had some friends in the FOR, I had been assigned to be the interpreter for his speeches. It was no easy task, translating for a man whose words cascaded in an avalanche of eloquence, and I confess that I failed miserably! Still, I would not exchange that failure for any subsequent success, for if I was not able to capture his eloquence, his dream was certainly able to captivate me.
The “I Have a Dream” speech was still in the future. But the dream was clearly there. It was a vast and valiant dream, one that dared see beyond the racism that had always engulfed his life. It was a very realistic dream, one that began by acknowledging that everything was stacked against it. In between Dr. King's various commitments, we had several conversations I shall never forget. He was staying at the seminary where I was teaching, next door to my apartment. In my living room, which was also my study, we talked about slavery, and Jim Crow, and lynchings, and the KKK. He spoke of all these things as very real and very powerful, yet he also spoke of them as enemies that did not stand a chance against truth and right. At that point it dawned on me that his dream was not just a dream. It was a vision of the future—a vision one could join or ignore or resist, but never undo.