In an effort to begin the new year with a proactive brainstorm, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Foghorn staff reflected on an NPR segment that prompted listeners to finish the sentence, “I dream a world…” This exercise, based on the 1941 poem “I Dream a World” by Langston Hughes, not only bonded our staff and revealed some of our common goals, but exposed the areas in which we feel our world is severely lacking. Our poem, “We Dream a World,” is compiled of each staff member’s individual response(s) to the prompt.
In light of what our country has witnessed and experienced in just the last year, the prompt “I dream a world” felt overwhelming. However, we found encouragement when reflecting on the words of Martin Luther King Jr. from his legendary 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech: “In spite of the frustrations and difficulties of the moment, I still have a dream,” as King so eloquently put it.
We quickly learned that reading what everyone else hoped for could be just as eye-opening and inspiring as writing out our own thoughts. This exercise reminded us how easy it is to stop dreaming big, especially since this past year it’s often felt like we’ve been living in a nightmare. In constructing this poem, we attempted to keep a positive mindset while still acknowledging the very real struggles of our day.
When we sat down and thought about what we dream for the world, we found many common values, a lot of which revolved around how we treat others, in light of the polarization of our country over the last four years. We found that our responses were entrenched in our uniquely human desire to be loved and valued; to feel safe, accepted, and comfortable in our identities; and to be able to understand, find common ground, and work hand-in-hand with those who are different than us.
Americans often chase two different dreams. There are the dreams that we so desperately want that we actualize them through sheer resilience and determination, in spite of the odds or systems standing in our way. And then, there is the mythical “American Dream.” This dream has been indoctrinated in all of us, but, in reality, it is only reserved for an elite few. Our dreams are a reflection of where the “American Dream” has fallen short; they are a direct answer to the inequity and inequality which we have been disturbingly, but necessarily, reminded of these past four years.
Despite the exhaustion many feel with our current political, racial, and social climates, at the Foghorn we are hopeful that America is transitioning into a moment of change.
When we are young, many of us are taught that our wildest dreams can become a reality. Creating our “We Dream a World” poem was as much an exercise of our imagination as it was a healing activity for our hearts. With age usually comes wisdom and, although most of us at the Foghorn haven’t lived more than two decades, we still recognize that in order for our dreams to become a reality, we must not only carry a childlike sense of imagination and ability to dream; we must also have the energy and determination to enact change through our everyday actions.
Some of the most influential people in history have been the wildest dreamers, even those who came from immense hardship. So, going into this semester where everyone is facing varying degrees of adversity given the current state of the world, it’s important to take a moment to picture what you want from the future. While we’ve learned how quickly the world can change, dreaming is the first step in the process of creating the change we want to see. After all, to lose the ability to dream is to lose the ability to hope and without hope, there can be no better future.
In the words of Langston Hughes from his poem “Dreams,” “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”
“We Dream a World” by the Foghorn staff
I dream a world where all people can learn acceptance.
I dream a world that places environmental health and prosperity over personal inconveniences or fortune.
I dream a world with deeper acknowledgement and understanding.
I dream a world where people recognize their privileges, because it is not until we realize the ways in which we are advantaged that we can help those who do not reap those same rewards.
I dream a world with more meaning than meaninglessness.
I dream a world of more peace and compassion for one another.
I dream a world in which no person fears for their basic human rights and decency. A world in which your identity enhances who you are and how you fit into the world, and doesn’t debilitate you.
I dream a world where people view each other as opportunities and not obstacles.
I dream a world where the truth matters.
I dream a world where American politics aren’t so polarized.
I dream a world where I don’t have screaming matches with my mom over which news channel we watch.
I dream a world where belief in democracy and its related institutions returns, including trust in journalism and the inclusion of all in civic processes.
I dream a world cooperating to end the current pandemic that is affecting so many people in many different ways.
I dream a world where our lives aren’t constrained in boxes on a screen, when intimate moments with family and friends can be cherished again.
I dream a world when everyday campus complaints seem to be the primary source of emotional stress.
I dream a world in which the constant anxiety, the uncertain future of our country can ease.
I dream a world where the environment and its natural beauty, even for just a moment, can breathe the fresh air it needs.
I dream a world where words like “equality,” “justice,” and “respect” are our lived truth and the only pursuit in each thing we do.
I dream a world of selflessness, where our actions show others we care.