And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free[…]
Seven scores and 13 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” 150 years ago, on this day, the proclamation was effected in the state of Texas. The state was freed from the darkest chapters of humanity to usher new hope and spirit.
The reason I write to you today is to help us retrospect about the freedom from slavery that the great men and women of this country fought for. This great country became an independent nation in 1776. It became free. But did it achieve freedom in the absolute way. It took a great number of years to realize that things weren’t right. It took a lot of introspection to figure out that freedom and slavery cannot co-exist. It took time for this fact to get realized that freedom is not a commodity for some, but a necessity for all. That is when the Emancipation Proclamation came into picture. The news of which took time to reach out to the states and Texas was one of the last states to get this news, a moment celebrated as Juneteenth. Juneteenth was not the day when the evil of slavery was alleviated, but it definitely signalled a start.
150 years later, we have gathered here to celebrate our achievement. An achievement we are proud of, an achievement we wish to transcend to the generations of the future. Lincoln mentioned in his Gettysburg address that our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” We reflect upon the same ideology in the world today. The United States of America is a strong nation, a place where achievers are born, a place to which the world looks up for direction. A multi trillion dollar economy, the United States thrives on because of the foundation on which it stands. A foundation that is made from the principles of justice for all. We all hear about the Great American dream. This dream is not only about people becoming successful in their ventures, but this dream is about letting the world know how to strive forth to achieve that success.
As we celebrate the Juneteenth, we are all fortunate enough to breathe the same air as others. The gift of liberty that our forefathers gave us is not an object that can be taken for granted. It is a continuous process where we liberate our souls from the shackles of mental stigmas, slavery and shallowness of the character. Our mutual respect for one another is enough to help us let the fruits of togetherness and freedom find a place.
I would like to make a mention of another champion of liberty and equality Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On August 28, 1963, almost a 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, he spoke to thousands of activists at the Lincoln Memorial about his dream. One of the things he said was that “I have a dream, that my children won’t be known by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. 52 years later, we can certainly vouch that his dream has come true in many ways. Today when we gather here for these celebrations, we all look forward to a new world, a new dream. To all of you present here, and all those who stand by the principles of liberty, justice and equality –
I have a dream, that the world of tomorrow won’t be shattered by the narrow domestic walls of injustice
I have a dream that the people in this great country continue to lead the world with robust examples of their characters
I have a dream that we shall never let the poison of race and color, strangulate the fabric of freedom that we have woven together.
And I have a dream, that we shall never bow to the ills of the society, giving equal opportunity to all who dream to be something.
Friends it doesn’t matter where we come from, it matters who we are. There is no Black America or White America or Latino America or Asian America or African America. We are all together as the United States of America. One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, which shall remain so, till people like you and me continue to strive to make it better every day.
Gaurav Shekhar is from India and is currently pursuing my Masters in Information Technology and Management. He worked as a Technology Consultant in India and UK, before coming to UT Dallas in January 2015. He is actively involved in multiple student organizations and is an avid Toastmaster. Gaurav loves to read and write and is currently working on his first collection of short stories. Singing and acting completes his bouquet of hobbies. His motto in life is “to make the lives of others simple. Compassion and Tolerance are the things that drive the world and I am a great believer of that.”