I have a dream


Fifty years ago to-day Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech at the March on Washington.

I remember my mother, born in Canada but raised in Newark, New Jersey, was very anxious about the developments of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the Black Power Movement. I was living at home that summer, and we followed the unfolding events as closely as possible. She had been born in 1921, and her proud and highly skilled father had taken his family south to find work… any work… during the Depression. They were just as poor and just as desperate as the black families in the urban neighbourhood. She remembered her childhood playmates with great affection and was outraged at the way blacks were treated in the south, but she was also worried.  How could any nation survive such upheavals, what if there was violence, what if law and order broke down, what  if compromise and change proved impossible? Those fears were not unfounded… the Watts riots occurred exactly two years later.

Has there ever been a time when there was not something enormous and uncontrollable about which thoughtful and intelligent people like my mother would not be anxious? Coverage of the anniversary of the march has pushed, at least for now, news of the crisis in Syria to the background.  It is reassuring, perhaps, to think of the march and King’s great speech as a turning point that did not turn out disastrously. But that is no reason to be smug or complacent… the work on racism is far from complete.

Needless to say, media attention has been intense. There is nothing to say that has not already been said, brilliantly, by people much more knowledgable about the topic than I am.

I found this BBC program about the speech especially interesting, because other black leaders are reading the speech. There is no way to embed it, so please click on the link to open it!

I am so accustomed to hearing King’s oration, that the impact has been muted by familiarity. Hearing the same words uttered in other voices forces me to listen acutely again to the text, to every word of the message, to the substance, not the style.

Please tell me whether you are hearing more clearly phrases and meanings that were not so obvious before.


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3 Responses to I have a dream

  1. Jan Ballantyne says:

    It has been many years since I listened to the speech in its entirety. As usual, it brought me to tears, and hearing it in different voices certainly did nothing to stop those feelings. I was only six in 1963, but I remember the optimism that great change was coming for the Negro population in the United States, and the many events, good and bad, that followed during the Civil Rights movement. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • motleydragon says:

      Thank you for your reply!
      I know that we have had it so easy compared to the lives of our parents through terrible times. Neither my husband nor my sons have had to go to war, and we have lived in peace and prosperity. Nonetheless, we have witnessed incredible historical events right at home, via television.
      I think it is a responsibility to be aware, to think about the moral and ethical, social, political, and economic impact of events worldwide. But often, I would rather not.

  2. Curmudgeon Bludgeon says:

    Lol, Motley D, you left the part out about how he plagiarized the end of the speech.

    Quote: “We, Negro Americans, sing with all loyal Americans: ‘My country ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, Land of the Pilgrims’ pride From every mountainside Let freedom ring!’

    “That’s exactly what we mean — from every mountainside, let freedom ring. Not only from the Green Mountains and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire; not only from the Catskills of New York; but from the Ozarks in Arkansas, from the Stone Mountain in Georgia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Let it ring not only for the minorities of the United States, but for the disinherited of all the earth! May the Republican Party, under God, from every mountainside, LET FREEDOM RING!”

    Quote: “This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, ‘My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’

    “And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

    Will the real MLK please stand up? (Google the samples if you don’t believe me.)

    Of course, the High Priests of PC Orthodoxy (and their snivelling footlings too, natch) will come back with something about how “borrowing and reshaping texts within the oral tradition blah blah blah” and they’d even have a case for it if it weren’t also true that King was a serial plagiarist, with a track record of ripping off other people’s work going all the way back to his college days. And the biggest laugh of all is that “Dr” King stuff: not only did he plagiarize his doctoral dissertation but he had the stupidity/effrontery to take a substantial portion (up to a third, if I remember correctly) from the thesis of a *fellow* student who graduated from the *same* program just three years before.

    But then, I guess not so dumb after all: not only did they pass him, but when Boston University was finally dragged, kicking and screaming, to acknowledge the fraud in the early nineties, they still couldn’t bring themselves to revoke the great man’s degree. Now why should that be, I wonder? Isn’t it matter of academic principle? (lol)

    But gosh, look at me! I haven’t cited my sources either!


    That should do for a start.

    If you can’t fly, run, and if you can’t write a decent speech or research paper, welp, just rip off somebody else’s, I guess. Happy “Dr.” Martin Luther King Day!

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