The I Have A Dream Speech


Lydia’s friend Laura came for a play date this afternoon. The girls, seven-year-olds, asked to go on the computer, and, as usual, asked for help getting onto a website.

“Daddy, can you Google the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech for us?”

Uh…sure thing. They watched Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his famous speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. They watched the whole thing and asked me to print out a PDF. Then they got off the computer and went downstairs to play in the basement.

I like their teacher.

This evening I read the speech. It is one of the two most important in American history, according to Griel Marcus, the other being Lincoln’s second inaugural. I would agree. It manages to tell America’s history and lay out its destiny in the form of a great and unavoidable challenge. The goal, a dream. It decodes the genome of our experience, in a sense. And just as the Human Genome Project launched us on a long road to curing intractable disease with a new set of tools, King’s speech essentially showed us what we have to work with and pointed the direction to equality in America.

Lydia commented that King kept saying, “100 years later.” I explained he was referring to the time between the Emancipation Proclamation and King’s speech. I started thinking that an additional 43 years has passed. That enormous gains have been made, though much is essentially unchanged. That nearly 146 years after the Civil War, the struggle for racial equality is still our defining challenge.

And I thought about how Lydia and Laura couldn’t take their eyes off the I Have A Dream speech.


7 Responses to “The I Have A Dream Speech”

  1. Pearl Says:

    That is an awesome teacher. Imagine learning about MLK Jr at that age.

  2. mrschili Says:

    This is GORGEOUS. I, too, love their teacher (and I can’t take my eyes off the speech every time I see it, either).

    I’ve used the speech in several of my classes, asking students to think about the rhetoric King used and how the language, images, and circumstances wove together to create a perfect moment in history. I am often disappointed by how little students are willing to stretch their thinking about this piece in particular – and much of what I give them in general – but I guess that’s the plight of an English teacher in a technical/business school.

    Sharing a birthday with the man, I feel a particular kinship to Brother Martin. Thank you for posting this, and for keeping your little piece of the Dream alive…

  3. Patia Says:

    I love that speech. I studied it in an English class years ago. The man was an incredible writer and speaker.

  4. keda Says:

    absolutely wonerful. and so true. an amazing speech still. and sad how far we all still have to go.

  5. colleen Says:

    Yeah! I’m thrilled for his speech to be reaching and teaching kids.

  6. Birdie Says:

    Some people are more than charismatic. They derive their entire being from the source. MLK was like this, like Lincoln. Bigger than ordinary men. I wonder what it’s like to exist in a way that reduces who you are to the level of monument. It must be a difficult life.

  7. Rick Says:

    Yes, Birdie. They are the most important Americans of the 19th and 20th centuries. At the center of the same struggle.

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