Why We Remember Dr. King's Speech

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I was eight years old when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I have a dream" speech, and I can still remember it -- I still hear his voice in my head. Chances are, you do too. Heck, phrases probably resound with you, even if you weren't alive 50 years ago.

The question is: Why? Look at this program -- there were a host of great speakers that day.

Why do we remember Dr. King's speech? There are many reasons, from the political to the tragic. I encourage you to look here for the entire text, as we examine a few of the creative reasons whywe remember. In his gorgeous speech, Dr. King:

  • Follows the "magic of three" rule when repeating key phrases: "One hundred years later ..." In a later paragraph, it's "Now is the time ..." a phrase he uses three times and then picks up again in the next paragraph, after a pause. Note that he also sets these phrases up: "There is no time to engage ...." sets up the "Now is the time" approach.
  • Shows rather than tells. He paints a picture: "...the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity."
  • Takes the universal and makes it personal. "I have a dream that my four little children ..."
  • Draws on the familiar. This crowd knew Biblical references. And Dr. King knew how to engage an audience with call and response.
  • Makes us think. Consider today's political rhetoric. Measure it against some of the words and phrases in this speech: "manacles of segregation," "the fierce urgency of now," "the whirlwinds of revolt." There are too many to list. Read the speech.

Dr. King's speech stands as testament to the power of words and the reality that brave, creative people change the world.

I generally keep my liberal politics out of the blog. However, I truly believe this isn't politics. It's a matter of what's simply, morally right: As a nation, as a people, we should share the dream. We should never be satisfied "until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."