If you’ve already Googled something today, you’ll have seen this:
Today is the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most famous speech of our times: Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, given at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C. on August 28, 1963. Although I lived in the D.C. suburbs then, I was too young to be a political activist, and thus missed the chance to hear this live. But I’ve heard it many times since, and you should listen to it today (it’s about 17 minutes) not only for its immense historical value, but because it’s the greatest piece of rhetoric I’ve ever heard. Notice how his use of repetition accentuates his message. (And find the one bit lifted from Shakespeare.)
Most of us don’t remember the times when segregation was simply a fact of life, but when I got to college in Virginia in 1967, I noticed in that in the bus station there were two bathrooms for each sex, and two water fountains. Only later did I realize that those were the old “black” and “white” bathrooms and fountains, from which the signs had recently been removed.
It now seems impossible to imagine that it was illegal for blacks to share bathrooms and water fountains with whites. Those times have gone forever, at least in the civilized world. As King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
I’d urge readers to close their eyes and take a few minutes to listen to the speech, remembering that when it was given it was necessary.
The Speech proper starts 48 seconds into this video.
You can download the full text of King’s speech from the National Archives. And, over at Panda’s Thumb, reader Joe Felsenstein (a renowned evolutionary biologist and quite the radical when young) has posted his reminiscences of attending the March on Washington and hearing King’s speech live.