Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Fifty year ago today, on August  28, 1963, Martin marched and talked and dreamed his dream for our nation.

250,000 people marched  and dreamed with Martin.

They filled the National Mall.
This political gathering, one of the largest until that point, called for jobs and freedom, civil  rights for African- Americans, and racial harmony and peace for all in our nation.

I was 10 years old.
I remember.
The air was different.
Heads were held a little higher and greetings were a bit more enthusiastic in my community.
My parents watched the news even more than usual.
Hope abounded.

We have not yet fulfilled the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned for us. We have taken steps forward,  but we have not yet brought  into perfect reality the images he outlined  that day in front of the Lincoln Memorial in his I Have a Dream Speech.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day
live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color
of their skin but by the content of their  character. I have
a dream ....
When we allow freedom to ring-when we let it ring
from every city and every hamlet, from every state and
every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all
of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and
Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join
hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,
"Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We axe
free at last."
To read the speech in its entirety click here.
To listen to a recording of King delivering the speech click here

Students in our schools today were not alive when these famous words were spoken.  They were not yet in the world when we were called to create this nation that Martin is describing.

In order for this dream, this vision, this ideal to be achieved we must remember the dream.  We must remind ourselves of what our best selves can look like. We must call each other to be what we should be here in America.

There are many excellent books that introduce our younger citizens to Martin Luther King Jr. and his vision for our world and others that remind our older citizens and all of us to keep this dream alive, to work toward this vision.

Several address the speech and dream itself.

One that has remained a favorite of mine, I Have A Dream,  presents King's speech in its entirety,  includeds a foreword by Coretta Scott King, and is illustrated by 15 Coretta Scott King Award-winning artists. Back matter includes statements from each artists about the meaning of their illustrations along with biographical information, as well as photographs and highlights of  events in King's life.

A new favorite, I Have a Dream (Book & CD), also presents the entire speech along with unmatched illustrations by Kadir Nelson.  This edition  includes a CD of the speech.

What does this speech mean?  What exactly is the dream that King presented then... and now?

We want those who will build our future to not only have heard the speech, listened to the dream, but to also understand what the words mean, what the dream entails, and to realize their role in making this dream a reality.

 In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream Speech in Translation: What It Really Means (Fact Finders Kids' Translations), Leslie J. Holland presents the speech  with  clear, everyday-language "translations",  along with additional background information that will also translate the historic context.

 For older students and adults interested in a more comprehensive study of King's  speech, along with other writings, I recommend I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, Special 75th Anniversary Edition (Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929) 

And finally, in addition to learning about  King's speech, there is value in studying the man himself---his words, his leadership, his activism, his call to justice and peace, his demand for a new nation.   One excellent place to begin is Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier. Woven through biographical information are words from his speeches. 

In My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., King's sister, Christine King Farris, offers  a portrait of her brother from her privileged familiar perspective as sister. From her unique position, we gain a closer look at this famous man.  
And, of course, Andrea Pinkney includes Martin Luther King Jr. in Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America
Martin Luther King Jr., indeed, changed America.  
He offered us a new dream, a new way to exist together in our nation.
He calls us still... to be better than we are.

He had a dream.
We, too,  have a dream.

Today's Deeper Writing Opportunities

What did it mean in 1963? What does it mean to you now?
What parts of this dream have come true?
What elements in King's vision are not yet realized?
What is your role in making this dream a reality?

Write a reflection on this famous speech.

Yu may also want to write a new dream speech that Martin Luther King Jr. might deliver today were he alive.

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