August 28 – I Have a Dream

On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. announced his I Have a Dream speech as he addressed the crowd at the March on Washington in Washington D.C. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the biggest peaceful assembly the capital has ever seen, with more than 250,000 people in attendance. The final speaker at the march was the most prominent leader of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In his speech, King tells of his dream of a colorblind society, stating that his 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.

King spent several hours preparing a speech with the help of several advisors. He wanted a speech that was as impactful as the Gettysburg Address. King was advised by one to not use the term “I have a dream”, as it had been overused and seemed cliche. The crowd was larger than anticipated, and King knew this was his moment to really make an impact. He began reading his scripted speech, and while effective, something was missing. A prominent gospel singer sitting close to King shouted out “tell ’em about the dream, Martin” and as he threw out the script and began speaking from his heart, King made history.

Not only was King’s address his most famous speech, but it also serves as one of the most famous speeches in American history. King led the civil rights movements of the 1960s, as he pushed for the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 before his assassination in 1968. His legacy lives on and his words are synonymous with the fight for justice and equality even outside the U.S. For example, in Tiananmen Square, China, protesters held up “I have a dream” posters, the phrase was written on the wall Israel built around parts of the West Bank as well as seen on a train in Budapest.

Questions

  1. How close today are we to the color-blind society King envisioned in 1963?
  2. What impact did King’s skills as an orator have on his overall effectiveness in energizing supporters of the civil rights movement?
  3. What do you think is the lasting legacy of MLK? Why is this speech so important?
  4. Thinking of the different divisions of the country today, it is easy to say what you think others need to do to change. Leaving that aside, what do you need to do to bring the country closer to realizing Dr. King’s dreams?
Image Citation:

23rd, Aug. 2018, Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his “I Have a Dream Speech” to the March on Washington crowd, Aug. 28, 1863 . Retrieved from <google.com>.