Moore taking ‘The Dream’ to kids in need across Delaware

The Rev. John Moore gets into the character of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the Stevenson House Detention Center in Milford, one of the places where he recites Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech for residents. Rev. Moore’s goal is to re-ignite the dreams of the young men and women who are housed there through his performances. (Special to the Delaware State News/Dee Marvin Emeigh)

MILFORD — The Rev. John Moore of Dover says he is on “Cloud Nine.” After one of his most recent presentations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, two young men approached him to try performing some of the speech themselves.

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow,” he prompts, “I still have a dream.” They repeat it, line by line. “The difficulties of today and tomorrow” accurately represents the conditions those young men are in right now, so it’s a good place to start. They are residents at William Marion Stevenson House Detention Center in Milford.

The Rev. Moore has been taking “the Dream” to young people like them at Delaware’s juvenile detention centers for six years. But, he has been performing the famous speech far longer, for audiences throughout Delaware and beyond.

He was even invited to present it when the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial opened in Washington, D.C., for an audience of 7,500 people. Among the honored guests were many Civil Rights leaders and Dr. King’s son and daughter. It was a dream come true that he had been practicing for more than 20 years.

“I started when I was in my teens,” the Rev. Moore said. “Although I never met him, Dr. King was a mentor to me. I began practicing and memorizing his speeches, never realizing I’d be doing this.”

That’s part of what he tells the young people he encourters. “I think that’s what inspired these two young men to try it and they were awesome! I tell them, when you put in the practice, whatever your gift, people will want it.”

According to his performance schedule, it’s true. This year, during the weeks surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Rev. Moore had 35 engagements to present the speech. Although he performs excerpts from other famous works, there is a demand for the Dream Speech.

The Rev. Dr. John Moore recites the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech from memory for the 50th anniversary of the historic speech in 2016. (Delaware State News file photo)

That may be a clear indication of the need for having a dream. Certainly the young people in detention centers need one and the Rev. Moore, who is a vice president at United Way of Delaware, is keenly aware of that. He knows that “when given the needed resources, education, guidance, hope and inspiration, adjudicated youth can overcome poor choices, turn their lives around and make their dreams come true.” He knows because he was an at-risk teen growing up in the inner city of Philadelphia. Then, someone intervened and mentored him.

“Someone got me to believe in myself and that’s what I do for them,” he attests. He realizes for some that is a very difficult task. Some of the juveniles are serving life sentences. Still, he encourages them to be the very best they can be right where they are.

“As Dr. King said,” he related, “‘when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.’”

The words have become part of him. They have transformed him. “It’s a spiritual thing,” he said. His hope is that the power of the words will do the same for the young people he delivers them to — not in a superficial way, but in a way that re-ignites their ability to dream.

Along with the speech, he also gives them sound advice based on the acronym, DREAM.

D — Be Dedicated. Give it all you’ve got.

R — Be Resilient. Overcome the challenges.

E — Be Excited about living. Get the most out of it.

A — The right Attitude will transform the darker todays into brighter tomorrows.

M — Be Motivated yourself. Wait for no one to do anything for you.

And, they respond, as did the young men who came forward for an oratory lesson, with enthusiasm. They remember it and are motivated to dream about freedom and the things that can be.

As the two young men repeated their lines, one after another, their peers cheered them on. Then, when they got to the last line, “Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, we are free at last,” they repeated it together and the audience broke out in thunderous applause. In that moment, the Rev. Moore said he believes they were infused with hope and liberation. That, in turn, inspires him.

“We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny,” he said, quoting from Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be … This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

Although the words are Dr. King’s the character is very much that of the Rev. John Moore.

Dee Marvin Emeigh is a Milford-area freelance writer.

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