Speech given to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clarksville – June 11, 2006

“I have an idea.”

We are living in an historic time. Never before has there been such a vibrant discussion of equality for all people that really has been truly changing hearts.

It’s inspiring, really. People’s minds are being changed. They’re hearing positive examples of liberal ideology.

But are we really making a difference?

We are the enlightened. We understand the plight of the suffering, the downtrodden, and the marginalized.

We understand what it’s like to be ostracized, picked on, and demonized.

So what do we do?

Far too often, we go into the closet.

We have an idea, my friends: An idea how things should be, an idea how things really are, and an idea how we can make a real difference in the community.

But how can light be shown if it’s never uncovered? How can salt savor the earth if it’s never shaken?

Our opportunity here for THIS election year is unprecedented. We can educate, inform, and challenge the prevailing thought like never before.

We just have to do it. We just have to come out of the liberal closet!

It’s an idea that needs to be told. It’s an idea that we can share with friends and family, and an idea that can give a new realm of thought for those who are even willing to listen.

And they are listening. That’s the surprising reality. Instead of fear, people are looking for hope. For years, we’re told we have to be afraid. We have to fear losing Fort Campbell. We have to fear that we might get attacked again. We have to fear that liberals might get into power again.

You see that thinking? It might. It might. It might. What is reality?

The reality is that we ARE losing more and more rights each day as laws are passed or broken by officials in the name of security.

We ARE being told that gay and lesbian people are the scourge of society, that we will bring down the wrath of God and judgment.

We ARE being told that anyone who thinks differently that the conservative Reich is “un-american.”

Strange how the very party that screamed about what the liberals might do… are doing what they wanted us to be afraid of! Big government, wiretapping of phones, and invasive surveillance. Oh, it’s to keep the terrorists at bay.

Did you know that the Pentagon labeled a gay college group who wanted to plan a kiss-in at a recruiter’s office… a “Credible Threat” for terrorism? So they tapped them.


In fact, this happened in at least five or six states last year. No one screamed. “Oh, it’s just those faggots. We better see what they’re up to,” they might have said.

We have an idea. We have an idea that we should all be treated as equal since we were created as equal. One man had a similar idea. Only he called it a dream:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

That dream is alive today, my friends. It’s a dream of equality, of hope, and of passion.

Those words are as valid today as they were in 1963 when they were heard for the first time. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was as consistent with his words as he was with his actions. His commitment to nonviolence and equality literally changed a nation.

It was a change that few wanted. But it came. This is a dream that I share, a dream that I live for. And thanks to the actions of those who have similar vision, Dr. King is honored with a simple street that is thriving with activity.

Dr. King knew how to sell an idea. That idea was his dream for equality.

Even our president knew how to sell his idea in the 2004 election. “Stay the course.” His opponent couldn’t. I could ask 10 people in here what his platform was…other than “I’m not Bush”… and I would get 10 answers… at least. He had an opportunity, but wasted it.

If the democrats really wanted to win, they needed to respond directly to Bush’s idea of “Stay the course” with the reality of the situation: “THE BRIDGE IS OUT!” And now we’re suffering from that reality… the bridge is indeed out. And we’re about to go over the edge if we’re not careful.

I, too, have a dream. I have a dream that my friends and family will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the nature of their politics or their sexual orientation, but by the content of their character.

And it’s character that we must have. We must have the strength of passion and spine to stand up for what is right. And even if we can’t do the work ourselves, we need to support those who are doing it!

Clarksville is replete with groups who are working to make a difference. But they aren’t getting the support they need. They need your help, they need your support, and they need your money.

Clarksville Freethinkers Association
The Alter Gallery
Clarksville PFLAG
Clarksville Pride

Countless other groups need your help. We can’t ever assume that they’ll always be there, and we can’t ever assume that we’ll never make a difference.

After all, the root word of “Activist” is “active.”

Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?

Thank you.

David W. Shelton is a writer, speaker and activist in Clarksville. He is currently pastor of Christian Community Church of Clarksville, Chair of Clarksville Pride, Inc., and serves on the Clarksville Human Relations Commission.

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