OPINION

My Minute of News: The qualities that made MLK’s famous speech so famous

Jan 17, 2022, 4:24 PM | Updated: 4:52 pm
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr....
Black American civil rights leader Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) addresses crowds during the March On Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, where he gave his 'I Have A Dream' speech. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
(Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Sound up to listen to My Minute of News live!

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood behind a microphone at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, he and more than 250,000 other people had peacefully marched from the Washington Monument.

It was just under a mile and represented the culmination of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The goal of the march organizers was to demand civil rights for Black Americans.

There were a dozen other speakers before Dr. King, and one after him. But it was his “I Have a Dream” speech that became intimately linked with the march. It’s his speech that kids are taught about in school today. 

What made it so special? As far as I can tell, it boils down to three things: time, place, and words.

The time

It was 1963, and the height of the fight for civil rights, a battle that had been waged in America for years ahead of that tumultuous decade. It can be argued that the Black fight for civil rights began in the late 1940s when President Harry Truman issued an executive order to end racial segregation in the U.S. military.

Between that moment and King’s speech in 1963 was Brown vs. Board of Education and the end of segregation in public schools. Then the murder of Emmett Till, Rosa Parks’ refusal to sit in the back of a bus, a bus boycott, non-violent protests, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 ensuring voting rights, sit-ins, Ruby Bridges, and freedom riders.

Meaning Dr. King was riding a wave (and arguably, at the same time, in the mix creating the wave) that had decades of momentum with clear demands: civic and economic rights for Black Americans.

The place

Nearly 250,000 Black Americans had peacefully and solemnly moved a little less than a mile, from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Then, Dr. King took them on another trip, one through American history.

The words

With his words, he reminded everyone there and everyone who would watch and listen later, of some of the most powerful words uttered by other American giants.

Like the Gettysburg Address, the greatest speech in American history. King’s speech began with rhetorical flourish, using the same words as those used by the man sitting behind King in gigantic statue form. “Five score and seven years ago … ” (except Lincoln said, “four score.”)

He cited the powerful Declaration of Independence decree that all men are created equal.

And as he described the past, he pointed to the future, repeating the title of his speech as a chorus. As an exclamation point.

“I have a dream!”

Proof of the strength of this speech … each January… for 57 years… it’s heard in classrooms… on TV…and leaves each listener to weigh …whether Martin Luther King’s dream has … or ever will … come true.

Other reading:

 

Today’s Top Stories

Opinion

Follow @amandadickson...
Amanda Dickson

Time Out on the Field

One of my first jobs when I started at KSL in 1990 was running the board for BYU games, football and basketball.
4 days ago
dog attorney defend dogs...
Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Richard Rosenthal, animal attorney

Richard Rosenthal is an animal attorney who handles custody cases. He sues clinics for malpractice and defends dangerous dogs.
1 month ago
Indiana mall mass shootings...
Amanda Dickson

Opinion: Should media reduce their coverage of mass shootings?

When the media focuses on mass shootings, is it hurting society, both on an individual level and collectively? What can be done?
2 months ago
new variant...
Amanda Dickson

Opinion: Meet the new highly contagious variant of COVID-19 — BA.5

Like many others, KSL NewsRadio host Amanda Dickson avoided COVID-19 until the latest, most transmissible new variant emerged.
2 months ago
students stand on one leg during a yoga class for stress relief...
Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan: How to predict if you’re going to die

A new test could tell you about your life expectancy. If you're over 50 years old, you'll want to try it. All you need is your leg.
3 months ago
beat inflation...
Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan: How to beat inflation — potty train your cat (seriously)

Everyone's minds are on how to best beat inflation. And if you're trying to be super frugal, there's a good chance you can.
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
My Minute of News: The qualities that made MLK’s famous speech so famous