Monday, 17 January 2005

MLK day

There’s not much, if anything, I can add to Dr. King’s great I Have A Dream speech, so I’ll provide an excerpt, starting from my favorite section and going to the end:

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 today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with 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.

And 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 snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring—from the curvaceous slopes 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 molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village 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. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

Delivered roughly 100 years or so after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.


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I tend to prefer King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” personally, but that’s something of a matter of taste.



I’ve read the letter and love it. It has more depth than the speech and is also a fabulous work.

I guess the thing I like about the speech is the way he talks about redemptive suffering, then transformation and then builds up, with a wonderful crescendo, to “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” Unbelievably powerful. I’ve seen the speech at least a dozen times on TV and just reading it now gets me choked up.


I have a bunch of King’s speeches on CD, and played that speech last night for my 13 year old son, who was until then uninspired to write a short paper on King. Listening to the speech did the trick.

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