Martin Luther King Day: Later is Better than Never…

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By John Collins of Greenwich, GHS, USC

Long before Martin Luther King Jr. ever shared his, Langston Hughes asked “what happens to a dream deferred?” Even today, we may not know for sure. Just like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie-Pop, perhaps the beauty lies is in answering the question.

In his poem, Mr. Hughes proposed a few different scenarios, all of which seem to ring true. Yes, sometimes dreams do “dry up” as their proponents lose enthusiasm and let their ideas lose steam…but maybe not for long. There is usually somebody else willing to pick up the gauntlet, rekindle the dream, and work to push it along.

Sometimes dreams do “run” as they are cavalierly dismissed as unreasonable, implausible, or out of touch with reality…but only until somebody with sufficient imagination is willing to work to help the idea take hold.

Dreams certainly can “fester” over and begin to “stink” if they morph into bitterness and complaint. But real dreamers must not let those nightmares take hold. Dreams can remain separate, and live a life of their own.

Letting dreams “crust and sugar over” into something that appears “syrupy sweet” may sound good, but is no less dangerous than letting the dreams do any of the above. Papering over problems and glossing over reality leaves wounds undressed, and creates an unsustainable feeling of happiness and satisfaction.

Like the space Hughes left before finishing the last two stanzas of his thought-provoking poem, when this happens, time will pass, and reality will poke through. The dream will begin to “sag” and weigh “heavy” until it finally boils over and “explodes.”

When it finally does, we get our answer: while dreams deferred may continue to go unfulfilled, their continued presence means there is always hope. Much like the question posed by the owl about the tootsie roll, reaching the savory center may not be what’s most important. Trying to bite into the center and cut to the chase means you miss out on the sweet- albeit lengthy- process of hoping, striving, working to fulfill that dream.

Just don’t let “deferred” be confused with getting “dismissed” or “destroyed.” When dreams are deferred, there is still hope. Don’t ever let that go away.


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