Listening to 'I Have a Dream'
It is one thing to read the words, “From every mountainside, let freedom ring,” and it is entirely another to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver the magnificent “I Have a Dream” speech that helped change U.S. history.
Once you hear it, it is not possible to forget.
So today, on this national holiday that commemorates King and his impact on this country, sit down with your children and listen.
Where can you hear it?
But it wasn’t so long ago that it was difficult for most people to hear the whole speech, copyrighted by King and owned by his family.
King delivered the speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, after a long day of civil rights marches and speeches. People who were there recall that the crowd was tired and gave him polite applause at the beginning, but his powerful words and delivery soon moved the crowd--and the U.S. government.
Anyone who wanted to hear or use the speech in its entirety had to buy a copy sanctioned by the King family. The family went to court repeatedly to protect its copyright.
Scholars long complained that the people most hurt by the King family’s decision not to put the speech in the public domain were the very people King himself most wanted to help: the poorest children. Elite institutions had no problem paying the fee for the speech.
It is true that other prominent people also kept control of their work. Former president Richard M. Nixon sold his papers to the U.S. government for $18 million. The Washington Post reporters who broke the story of Watergate, which brought down Nixon, sold their papers to the University of Texas at Austin for $5 million.
But if there ever was a speech that belongs in the public domain, it is “I Have a Dream,” one of the great moments in American oratory.
When you read it the literary techniques--repetition, metaphor--are obvious. But when you hear it, you can literally feel his message of possibility.
So take the time--about 15 minutes--with your children. Listen to history being made.
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| January 18, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Civics Education, History | Tags: Martin Luther King, history
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