27 August 2010

"I Have a Dream" -- August 28, 1963

On August 28, 1963 the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most famous speeches in United States history (see the video above). In a review of Eric J. Sundquist's book on the speech last year in the NYT, Anthony Lewis writes:
“I have a dream” is the refrain by which the speech is known — better known to Americans today than any other speech, even the Gettysburg Address. (In 2008, according to one study, 97 percent of American teenagers recognized the words as King’s.) But for all its familiarity and indisputable greatness, the origins and larger meaning of the speech are not generally understood.

The speech and all that surrounds it — background and consequences — are brought magnificently to life in Eric Sund­quist’s new book, “King’s Dream.” A professor of literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, Sundquist has written about race and ethnicity in American culture. In this book he gives us drama and emotion, a powerful sense of history combined with illuminating scholarship.

A remarkable fact of which I was unaware is that the last third of the speech — the part about the dream — was extemporized by King. He had a text, completed the night before. But as he was addressing the crowd, protesting the indignities and brutalities suffered by blacks, he put the prepared speech aside, paused for a moment and then introduced an entirely new theme.

“I still have a dream,” he said. “It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ ”

With that quotation from the Declaration of Independence, King made clear that his vision of the future for black Americans was for them to be part of the larger society, not embittered opponents of it. He reiterated the point a few minutes later. Faith in his dream, he said, will bring a day “when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.’ ” Those “I have a dream” paragraphs still bring tears to my eyes.

The sources of that last third of the speech, fascinatingly explored by Sund­quist, include King’s own previous speeches, Negro spirituals, the Bible. We hear Handel’s “Messiah” when he says, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted.” But of course the words come from the book of Isaiah.

The image of the dream appeared in earlier King speeches, again coupled with ultimate belief in America. In Charlotte, N.C., in 1960 he said: “In a real sense America is essentially a dream — a dream yet unfulfilled. It is the dream of a land where men of all races, colors and creeds will live together as brothers.” . . .

Why did King abandon his written text that day at the Memorial? It may be, Sund­quist suggests, that despite shouts of approval he felt he had not really connected with the audience. His wife, Coretta Scott King, thought the words “flowed from some higher place.” In any event, the result was for the ages.

“Speaking suddenly from the heart,” Sundquist writes, “he delivered a speech elegantly structured, commanding in tone, and altogether more profound than anything heard on American soil in nearly a century. In the midst of speaking, King rewrote his speech and created a new national scripture.”
It is difficult to watch that speech and not realize that as messy and frustrating as politics can be, there is something utterly virtuous in our collective struggle to achieve our special and common interests.

Enjoy the speech and have a nice weekend!


  1. No more dreams in 2010: 'This video contains content from Sony entertainment. It's no longer available in your country.'

  2. -1-Werner

    Really? Sorry about that! I am sure that there are many versions on YouTube available anywhere.

  3. “I still have a dream,” he said. “It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    It seems to me that American's have become fragmented in their beliefs in what the American Dream means. The counter cultural revolution in the late sixties changed any consensus of what the American Dream meant in the traditional sense. King's dream of America has faded and is being replaced by the dream for globalization and a one world government.

  4. It was 1963, not 1968. Your title is right.

  5. scollon scollon 144 yahoobox144@ntlworld.com
    When Jefferson wrote 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’, he meant kings and white men were born equal, not women, Negroes or native Americans. He described the latter as 'the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions'.

    The declaration was an extended rant against the institution of hereditary monarchy, a declaration of war by the mercantile bourgeois class which quickly gave rise to the French 'revolution'. Not universal idealism, but cynical political propaganda.

    The declaration originally contained a flaming denunciation of the institution of slavery, although 25 of the 55 members of the constitutional convention were slave owners. Jefferson himself owned over 600 slaves in his lifetime. He also fathered 6 children with young slave Sally Hemmings who remained his slave until she refused to return from Paris where slavery was illegal, unless he freed her.

    Jefferson's hidden slave legacy


    "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?"

    Samuel Johnson

    Jefferson died with huge personal debts (over a million in today's terms) and his slaves were sold off.

    One of the first acts of the government of the brave new world, was to pull off a massive insider trader currency scam, putting down a marker for the future Wall Street.

    Insider Trading is the American Way - The Founding Scam


  6. MLK was murdered and all political opposition in the USA was snuffed out by operation Cointelpro. A typical tactic was infiltrate, radicalise and demonise. Bill Ayers, a billionaire's son lead the Weather Underground. Despite bombing the New York City Police Department headquarters, the United States Capitol building, and the Pentagon, all charges against him were dropped.

    He later became a leading figure in the Chicago education scene and a close friend and mentor of Barack Obama. He even claimed to have written Obama's book 'Dreams of my Father'.

    Obama had recently completed a year working for Business International Corporation, outed by the New York Times and John Pilger as a CIA front company training agents to infiltrate community organisations and unions.

    Obama is not the fulfilment of Dr King's dream, but a continuation of the nightmare that led to 1960's radicalism.

    As all forms of discrimination are bad for business, perhaps the hope lies there. God works in mysterious ways.

  7. Having been at the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his speech and yesterday when Glen Beck and many others gave theirs, i was struck at how much more similar they were in tone and direction with appeal to the scriptures, faith, hope and charity than the politics of victimhood, alienation and hate that i have witnessed at many rallies over the decades in between. As Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in her remarks about the rally, we cannot move forward as her uncle implored unless we abandon the political poison of identifying ourselves by color, black, white, red-state, blue-state. and all the other distractions from following the Commandments. The irony of the day was that the 1963 rally was far more integrated racially than the rally held by King's alleged successor, Al Sharpton, who calls himself a Reverend without ever having attended a day of divinity school.