Martin Luther King Day might mean another paid day off work, and for many people, that’s reason enough to celebrate. But when you scratch the surface of what this holiday is really about, you may come to have a whole new appreciation for how one man changed our nation’s history and influenced its current social state.
Like most of America, you probably know Martin Luther King Jr. from the pages of your history book — a charismatic and often controversial Baptist minister and social activist who was assassinated for his belief that all men should live as equals in 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. undoubtedly left his mark and created a tidal wave of social change that we are still seeing the ripple effects of today. If you want to go back to where it all began, to the heart of his social platform, it all starts with one powerful speech.
Dr. King planted the seeds for the “I Have a Dream” speech during earlier speeches, but he didn’t finish the actual speech until the wee hours of that August day. The speech, given during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was to inspire people to rise up and demand equality for all.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, to a crowd of over 200,000 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
Watch the “I have a dream” speech
Unforgettable excerpts from MLK’s groundbreaking speech
The 17-minute address is one of the most iconic speeches of all time. It’s worth revisiting this speech to remind ourselves what MLK fought for – and what we should continue to fight for today.
- “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 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.”
- “In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.'”
- “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
- “Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Updated by Bethany Ramos on 1/13/2016