Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech

January 16, 2012|By Dave Rosenthal

On this national holiday, it's a great time to listen again (or for the first time) to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, which he delivered to a huge crowd of supporters in Washington in 1963.

The short speech, only about 16 minutes, seems almost quaint at some points, as King talks of "the Negro" and mixes in Old Testament references. But you also get a feel for his powerful oratory -- the repetitive phrases that build upon each other, gaining strength each time. Words  such as "We cannot be satisfied" and "Now is the time," as well as the signature phrase.

It's a call for non-violence: "meeting physical force with soul force." For racial unity: "We cannot walk alone." And for continued progress.

His words are stirring more than a half-century later: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged on color of their skin but by the content of their character."

To read more about the civil rights leader, check out the books listed on The King Center's website, or dig into the "America in the King Years" trilogy by Baltimorean Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize winner.

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