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Dr. King’s Dream vs. 2020 Vision

by on January 23, 2020 5:00 AM

This week we observed a national holiday created to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But does our 2020 society truly honor a man who asked us to lift our eyes to the horizon and dream of unity through non-violent change?

What would he find in us now in America? Has America’s 2020 Vision blinded Dr. King’s dream?

In 2020 we’re a nation divided into camps eyeing each other suspiciously. King would see a broad divide in a system where progress toward fairness is being gutted to favor the most powerful among us. He’d see we’ve lost our way on the march toward the values he espoused, the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood building dignity and equality for all. Dignity was not reserved just for people who looked or worshipped a certain way.

In 2020, our nation values a win-at-all-costs blitz in a zero-sum game. Grab all of the pie of political power or business profits as we can without regard for those we trample, or what rules or laws we have to bend to get the biggest slice. We’ve seen this before. Every time we think we are somehow smarter or different from people in the past we end up in a similar place. Corruption crushes the most vulnerable among us while monsters who knowingly exploit society skate away.

Trust and unity are on life support because everything is a transaction on some ledger sheet and in everything I have to win and you have to lose. The dignity and respect we should afford one another is gone.

Where are the leaders calling us to service? Where are the leaders who are willing to serve others, to humble themselves? There was a time when the values of leadership through service were preached in our houses of worship.

But even many in our houses of worship have fallen under the seductive spell that comes with proximity to political power and the Oval Office. Has the siren song led them to the rocks where they forget the lessons and teachings they claim to espouse? I’m no Biblical scholar so maybe I missed the part where Jesus asked for money so that he could have a private chariot take him from town to town in comfort and style. “Pass the collection plate and gas up the private jet,” I suppose is the verse.

But that is the 2020 Vision with which we see the world. 2020 Vision is a distorted lens that creates a morally flexible vantage point to justify the way we want to act, not the way we should act. But winning justifies everything.  

Maybe it is time to remember what was written in the New Testament:

 What profit would a man show if he were to gain the whole world and destroy himself in the process? What can a man offer in exchange for his very self?” --Matthew 16:26

Wise words should remind us that there is a price to pay when we sell our souls. The values of our nearsighted 2020 Vision have blinded us to the distant horizon consequences that will inevitably arise. Soulless leaders have nothing to sell, I guess.

But they are selling something besides their souls. They are mortgaging the future. In their rush for short-term gain, the rush for instant gratification on a quarterly report or the next election they ignore the long-term damages we may be doing. 

“Treat the Earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” 

--Crazy Horse

2020 Vision is an obstructed view of the world where we ignore the future that we borrow from our children. 2020 Vision believes we can act with impunity. 2020 Vision tells us that individually and as a nation we are indispensable and infallible. 

While we may remain indispensable as a nation, we are not infallible and we never have been. But that is not how we see the world now.

There was a time not long ago when we had leaders who understood this. And they stood to challenge the status quo. They stood to demand that our nation live up to the written promise of our founding documents. Dr. King was one of those people and he inspired legions more like him.

King was not perfect; in fact, the hardest thing for us as a society is to understand that we are often sent imperfect messengers. But we should focus on the good, on the aspirations they set out for us. King’s dream and his words could not be stopped by the assassin’s bullet.

They must continue to inspire. In 2020 we need his words to open our eyes more than ever.


State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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