2013 was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, a milestone marked by many remembrances and memorials. As we approach this January 20th, set aside to honor MLK, we are reminded once again that we should never give up on our dreams, which are as varied as the people who dream them.
. . . including dreams that go back as far as 1607, when the English (some 100+ men and boys plus 39 crew members) established Jamestown as the first settlement of the Virginia Colony, traveling across the ocean to fulfill their dream of religious freedom and a better quality of life. Today Jamestown, and nearby Williamsburg, are a testament to these early settlers’ fortitude, and what once was their first home reminds us of America’s early history, which have also become popular tourist attractions, drawing people from all walks of life.
May 10, 1869 marked another milestone in American History, where the dream of the first Transcontinental Railroad was finally realized thereby enabling Americans to travel virtually from one coast to the other overland, connecting with the existing Eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa. The dream may have actually begun with Asa Whitney, the widely-traveled cousin of Eli Whitney (inventor of the cotton gin) who said, “[It] would bring all our immensely wide-spread population together as one vast city; the moral and social effects of which must harmonize all together as one family; with but one interest – the general good of all.” Others, like Dr. Hartwell Carver kept the dream alive, with an article published in 1832, where Carver advocated the building of a transcontinental railroad from Lake Michigan to Oregon.
Although the initial building of a transcontinental railroad was very much for commercial purposes, as it evolved it is also provided a means for tourism.
President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill, on August 25, 1916, “to conserver the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein”resulting in the creation of the National Park Service. While there may have been others, it was a dream of conservationist Stephen Mather, and journalist Robert Sterling Yard, who wrote numerous articles praising scenic qualities, recreational benefits and educational possibilities of the United States parks. It was however, during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt that the US Forest Service was established and the 1906 Antiquities Act was signed, proclaiming 18 national monuments, the establishment of five national parks, 51 wildlife refuges and 150 national forests; no doubt a dream of many who appreciated the natural beauty of America.
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was no doubt the culmination of dreams for many an astronaut with the first moon landing by the spacecraft Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Space exploration is a continued dream for a diverse group of visionaries, including women and people of many cultures. Photos shown are of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon and a more recent group of astronauts who travelled through space.
Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King is a good time to pause and reflect. The American Dream is still alive, where we have the freedom to do many things and plenty of opportunities for all, in America, the Beautiful!
To learn more about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad visit this site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/tcrr-whitney/