What has happened since Martin Luther King last addressed the nation 39 years ago?
What progress has been made in the last 30 years ago?
I have to agree that the main "progress" that has been made is that the issue of race is openly discussed, yet it is still not solved. There is legislation, yes, that has been enacted that prohibits the discrimination against racial minorities when it comes to employment, housing, education, and other civil rights, but we have a long way to go.
As others have already stated, there is still a dividing line between the rich and the poor, and race factors heavily into that division. While it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, it still happens. It's just that other reasons are given - the white candidate was better qualified, had a better education, somehow fit the situation better. It is easy to get around anti-discrimination laws.
The fact that we have a minority President for the first time in our history is evidence that we have come a long way; however, the fact that his race was even a point of consideration in the election at all shows that there is still a great deal of change that needs to happen in this country. We are still firmly held under the grip of racism and sexism if we feel that we must mention the fact that our President is half black or that one of our Presidential candidates was a woman.
The most evident change in the time when Dr. King had made his last address to now is that the issue of race is better understood. That is not saying that we have completely overcome the issue of racial prejudice or discrimination, but there is a better dialogue that is emerging about the role of race in our social order. Naturally, I think that the barriers facing people of color in the 1960s are less than what was present in Dr. King's time. Again, this is not to say that the battle for equality and opportunity are over, but that we have moved to a better place in this neverending conflict. Certainly, issues of representation in the workplace are more respected and the election of a President who is Black would certainly be able to lend credence to the fact that progress has been made. Yet, I think that issues still persist as they did in Dr. King's time. How to ensure that all youth of color receive a quality education and live in communities where long term welfare is protected and enhanced, as well as ensuring that these communities are the source of strength and power as opposed to languishing in neglect and danger would be areas where Dr. King would focus attention both then and now.
I think that the main type of progress that has been made is that overt and open racism is completely unacceptable in American society today. There are still people with racist views, but no person can really get away with expressing racist views in public. In other words, if you express racist views at your workplace you are likely to get in trouble. If you are a politician and you express them, your career is in danger.
The amount of progress that the country has made can be most clearly seen by the fact that we now have a half-black president.
The issues that Dr. King was concerned with right before his death have not really improved, though. Poverty, especially for minorities, is still a huge problem in the United States.
So in terms of rights and such, tremendous progress has been made. In terms of ending poverty, not so much.