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On this day in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous I have a Dream speech. You may not know this, but the part of his speech where he launched into beginning his sentences with “I have a dream” was not planned. He had used those phrases in the past, but they were not written into this speech. He was inspired by the crowd and went with it. And boy did he go with it.
And it has been classified as the #1 speech of the 20th Century. For good reason.
His use of repetition was so effective that the speech is remembered for, and titled by, those passages and that phrase. He actually utilized a variety of fantastic rhetorical devices throughout his speech, including alliteration and other forms of repetition.
If you’d like to hear it, or read it, you can find MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech here at AmericanRhetoric.com.
If you would just like to remember that specific passage though, I’ve copied it here (remember this came at about 2/3 of the way through his speech):
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.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little 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.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
I always reference this speech when I teach my Presentation Skills for Attorneys seminars. Once, after one of my programs, an attendee came up to me and told me about a book his son had written discussing the speech. It is a terrific book and I recommend it – a very interesting historical look at the speech! The book is called “the Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation.” You can find it on Amazon (of course) and I am sure it’s in bookstores as well.
The speech is one of my favorites of all time. Every single person in all of my presentation skills courses (thousands at this point) have heard the phrase and know what it means – we always hear it on the radio, we probably read about it back in school. But when is the last time you listened to the whole thing, or read it the whole thing, if ever?
Take the time to do it now. It’s worth it.