Has Rev. King's dream of equal opportunity become a widespread reality, or is it still a privilege that some but not all enjoy?

A friend and I are having an email exchange about equal opportunity in America - in response to the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. America is exceptional our shared belief that equal opportunity should exist for everyonel in our country.

But has it become a reality, or is it still a privilege that only some enjoy?

I don’t have clear answers - but I do have questions.


When good day care is not affordable for low income parents, is there equal opportunity to employment?

When major chain-stores only offer part time employment to unskilled workers (cashiers, stock clerks, fast food servers, etc.) that pays minimum wage, is there equal opportunity to employment?

  • Note: minimum wage is $7.25/hour = $290/week ($246 after taxes) = $1256/mo. ($1058 after taxes) = $15,000 a year ($12,750 after taxes).

  • In rural and small town America, a monthly rental might only cost $450/month, but there is no public transportation - making car ownership a necessity. 

  • Is minimum wage a living wage when too many jobs are only part time jobs?

When tuition rates at the best elementary and secondary schools are unaffordable for working class families, is there equal opportunity to education?

When quality health care is unaffordable for the working poor, do we have equal opportunity to a heallthty, well-lived life?

  • What about access to preventative health care (vs. medical necessity health care)?

  • What about when a 12 year boy dies in Maryland due to a brain infection (costing taxpayers $250,000 for unsuccessful treatment) because his family couldn't afford to pay the $35 to have an abscessed tooth pulled and the state wouldn't help pay for it?

When wealthy businessmen, including many U.S. Senators and Representatives in the House, receive substantial agricultural tax subsidies each year, but the food stamp program (SNAP) is slashed -- despite 1 out of 5 children in our country living with food insecurity -- is there equal opportunity to succeed in America?

When our public assistance laws for years forced low income and poverty level families to be single parent families, has there been equal opportunity to living as a family?

When juvenile justice facilities across our nation are filled with youth who have committed minor offenses, 95% of whom are youth with disabilities - despite the undisputed fact that they will not receive mental health treatment or appropriate educational services while incarcerated -- and despite the well-established data that incarceration doesn't work (it harms kids, it doesn't help them) and there are less-expensive community-based alternatives that do work, is there equal opportunity to become a successful adult in the U.S.?

  • What about the incarcerated youth who are sexually abused by state officials?

When individuals with developmental, intellectual, and cognitive disabilities don't have access to the treatment and supports they need to live and work consistent with their potential, is there equal opportunity for them?

When people have to wait 8 hours in line to vote at low income voting precincts, is there equal opportunity to vote?

  • What's the difference between a poll tax and a requirement that you pay $35 for your birth certificate in order to register to vote?

When young children are brought to the United States by their parents who are not here legally but who work hard to raise their children well, and then years later when those children have finished college and are ready to work as skilled workers, if we deny them access to employment and deport them, have we lived up to America’s reputation for fairness, justice, and equal opportunity?