Martin Luther King Has a Dream
The 28th of August 1963 AD
In the 1960s so much changed. Not only the enjoyable superficialities of the music scene and cinema, but politics and civil rights. One of the most seminal moments in the decade was the speech made by Martin Luther King Jr from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on August 28 1963.
King was making his speech to around 200,000 marchers supporting change in America’s civil rights legislation, demanding equality for all races, the end of discrimination against black people. President Kennedy it seems feared that a poor display on the day would set the cause back. He need not have worried. Such was the power of King’s rhetoric that the message came across clearly but emotionally: the old ways had to go. Of course things did not change overnight, but it was inevitable after the march and this speech in particular that changes in the way minorities were treated in America would take place.
As a Baptist minister Martin Luther King was practiced in using words to move an audience. His rhetorical power is extraordinary, repeating phrases like that which gave the speech its name, “I have a dream,” and others including “Now is the time,” and “Let freedom ring.” He used biblical references and cited words from the American Constitution. But he also departed from his prepared text and spoke from the heart.
Comparisons have often been drawn between King and Barack Obama, but when King spoke of change we understood exactly what had to go; there was meat on the bones. Barack Obama, a civil rights attorney, is a gifted orator, but sadly his rhetoric has proved skin-deep thus far: it is hard to think of a more fatuous slogan than “Change we can believe in”. It is equally difficult to think that without Martin Luther King’s great moment an African American would have been able to become President of the USA in 2009.
King received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964, recognizing his contribution to the civil rights movement.
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