Revisiting what has been deemed one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century, the historic speech "I Have a Dream" by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Tune in and read along as Dr. Jeffrey Lant revisits that speech with words of what might have been Martin Luther King's if he had been alive to speak to the people today.
Excerpts from Dr. Lant's book "We Are Not Afraid" Revisiting the Life and Work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Author's Program Note
Good day, my fellow Americans and my fellow citizens of
Planet Earth. We have gathered today to hear one of the
greatest orators in the history of our species. He has let it
be known that he has something of epochal importance
to impart.... and we have gathered in our billions to hear it.
I do not overstate the case when I say "billions", for Dr. King's
audience today is composed of more people than any other
event in human history. Why so many? They know this man...
They respect his vision... He has helped them before, and they
feel certain he will help them again, touching their hearts, changing
their lives, soothing their troubled spirits.
"I Have A Dream"
The last time he called us together was August 28th, 1963, for what
came to be known as the "I Have A Dream" Speech. He reminded us
that without dreams there can be no progress and without progress the
people suffer and die, tragic evidence of our undeniable culpability.
That was a great day for dreamers and visionaries across the globe;
a day when light replaced darkness for so many and millions felt
hope for the first time in their challenged and overburdened lives;
blessed at last by "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness"; mere
words no longer but active possibilities to be used and enjoyed.
"Sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation."
Consider the man and his titanic mission. An entire race danced noxious
attendance upon an anxious majority of the population; the one determined
to preserve its superior position; the other oppressed and fearful they would
make even some trivial error against the baleful Jim Crow system of profound
segregation, thereby calling upon them their "betters" certain and severest
Trust between the races was non-existent; cooperation unknown; amity
as fleeting as a frosty smile that didn't last. The richest soil of the nation
produced only a bumper crop of fear, hatred, and the "strange fruit" of
premature death and hideous disfiguration, no one safe, black or white,
north or south, day or night, no matter how acquiescent or careful.
Let us now consider this man and the responsibility he shouldered, always
at terrible risk. He was in the prime of his productive life when he heard and
took to heart the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
He has come here today to bring freedom to us all, freedom and joy.
Part 1 Dr. Lant introduces the program and comments on the action.
Good-Day, World. Welcome to the WritersSecrets Sky Box high above the
stern, majestic Lincoln Memorial, scene of so many historic moments in the
life of our Great Republic, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's iconic
1963 "I Have A Dream" speech.
We have gathered here and around our tumultuous globe to hear a revered
and venerable man of God help us at a time of earthly crisis and unparalleled
challenge. The program begins with the greatest of Martin Luther's hymns, "A Mighty
Fortress Is Our God", written in 1529 by a man so honored by Reverend Michael
King, Sr. that following a 1936 trip to Germany he renamed himself the Reverend
Martin Luther King, Sr. and his seven year old son Martin Luther King, Jr. Access
any search engine and feel the power of the church militant tapped by the Reverends
King for their great endeavors; available, too, for yours.
“With our powers we will fail/ We would soon be defeated/
But for us fights the chosen man/Whom God Himself elected."
And so the adamant, soaring words are lifted higher today on the largest video
screens available. Now the colors... the music... the lyrics punch the sky as we
move gently in Washington, D.C. from radiant afternoon to expectant evening.
One senses destiny here today. It is the kind of day you will relate to your
grandchildren with pride. "I was there!", and those who had neither time nor vision
will rue this day of loss for a lifetime, bowing their heads in shame...
"There you catch a glimpse of Dr. King being helped out of his car, to be greeted
by the Mayor of Washington, DC at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. His son Michael
King, Jr. helps him out and hands him his cane. This cane was given to him by a
former member of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan who participated in lynching a young
black man. A silver plaque was engraved, "Father forgive me." When questioned as
to why he used this cane, his invariable response was, "There but for the grace of
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
On the night of November 18,1861 Julia Ward Howe went to bed as usual and
slept quite soundly, waking up to await the cool gray of dawn. Then, all of a sudden,
she experienced the thrill that is creation, long lines of a desired poem clear in
"I must get up," she said, "So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed and found
in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day
before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper." As so was
born "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", with its perpetual call to action and robust
certainty indicating purity of heart and God's will and glory.
Now these irrefutable words are playing above me for the world to know, along with
the inspired music. For this night at least, God's in his Heaven, all's right with the
world. Find it in any search engine for here is happiness, too long deferred, too little
known, our right, pilgrim that you are.
"Glory, glory Hallelujah/ His truth is marching on, and you are called to join "while
God is marching on
Part 2 "Here in my heart I do believe."
The most mild of twilights is now the most perfect of nights, the huge crowd
disciplined and respectful, intent alone upon listening to the final notes of Julia
Ward Howe's magnificent poem on freedom's cost.
Then her notes of adamant purpose are superseded by the anthem of the
Civil Rights Movement, the cause that changed America and brought
international leadership and renown to Martin Luther King, Jr.
The man, his moment, his anthem, his message all come together here,
now. If there is kismet, it is here.
The crowd leaps to its feet as if by a single movement. There are cheers,
shouts, whistles, and most of all a million clenched fists, the symbol of
revolution and what its supporters can and will give towards its success,
not just now... but every day in its ineluctable purpose. This is why Dr.
King has come again to the Capital of the Great Republic. And so this 87
year old leader is wheeled to a shared destiny, for we have all travelled with
him and shared in the important results we have achieved together.
Thus the men's chorus of Morehouse College serenades with the greatest
tune in their repertory, sung to the most famous of its alumni (class of 1944,
aged 15). "You can do anything" they have been told since birth... and today they
believe it and know they have never walked alone.
"We'll walk hand in hand"... "We shall live in peace"
and then alternating on the vast screens;
"We are not afraid..." and "We shall overcome." Like so many worldwide I
brushed away a tear, then another, and said a private prayer, for I knew, we
all knew, we could do this thing and be the better for it, or we could die by certain
inches, excuses, denials, expert only in looking the other way.
When I looked up, this man of men was at the platform, frail, held so he would
not fall; the prophet who had come so far over so long a distance. He knew what he
must do to ensure we would do what we must do. If this could be done, then anything
could be done, and we must work hard to ensure it would be, for our chances were
dwindling, the planet, our single home, at greater risk every single minute; our end
if not yet predictable, at least imaginable.
After wave after wave of cheers, the acclaim began to subside. A professional
to his fingertips, he knew just when to step in and take command. After several
raucous minutes, he grasped the podium. We knew he would give his last drop
of blood, willingly, joyfully, with gratitude, glad to have what he needed, the
support of generations, including even the love of those who had once upon a time
hated and despised him, anguish and murder their ready tools.. These, too,
against all predictions had learned from him. "Father forgive me..." The power of
redemption was always near at hand when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was nigh.
As he took his place at the podium, each and every one of the giant screens
burst forth with the most famous of his many famous quotations, "I Have A Dream"
and as these words took flight to the very gates of Heaven, the crowd was on its
feet again, with their thousands of approbations, approvals, enthusiasms, and
motivations. The crucial connection between Prophet and people took place
making this a thrilling experience for all.
Just then a gust of wind blew through the assembled masses, his striking
doctoral gown from Boston University billowed, reminding us that here was a
scholar, a theologian, a pastor, an historian, a writer, an orator, a visionary,
a thinker and most of all a seeker after Truth. He had done his work, and it was
well and truly done. Hallelujah!
"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest
demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation."
This is how I began my remarks to you in 1963 and this is how I begin them to you
today. My words were candid and urgent then. My words are candid and urgent
to you today. Let me begin with gratitude.
So many of you here today, so many of you around the globe have worked
together that I can report with pride this day dawns better than yesterday, and we
stand together to ensure tomorrow will be better yet. This is good news
indeed, and we can feel proud of what we have done and what I know we will do
There are many reasons why we are better off today than then, and I place them
before you now. We achieved them together. Let us then celebrate them together
too, always remembering that further progress is dependent upon maximum unity.
I call upon you now for that essential unity. I have a dream... and that dream is
your complete and utter commitment to freedom here! Freedom now! Freedom
forever and ever. Amen!
Will you, dear friends and colleagues, join me in making that commitment,
for the good of all is dependent on the work of each?
I have a dream that all are equal before the law, no one above the other, fairness
and equality our constant and never-ending goal.
I have a dream that the benefits of education be available, and joyfully too, to every
child, and that this education include art, music, and all the liberal arts, for these
contain the essential wisdom of our species.
I have a dream that no one should want for health care. No people, no nation
can be great when so many lack the basics of sustained health and necessary
nutrition. Now is the time to achieve this goal.
I have a dream where women who want to work do so with equal pay for equal
work. A great nation must be a fair nation and that fairness, long overdue, must
I have a dream that air be clean.... that water be pure... that animals be
protected and plants as well.
And most of all, I have a dream that there be peace on Earth, good will towards men.
This is the most important dream of all, and the most pressing.
Whether these dreams stay dreams or whether they become hard-won reality and not
just philosophical possibility depends on each of us. If a single person hearing this
message declines to help implement it, the dream must wither and die. You see, we
either ascend together or we decline together to that extent.
That is why, as I conclude my visit with you, I remind you all not just that we shall
overcome but that we are not afraid. We know the work is long and arduous. We
know many will obstruct and deride. We know this is not the goal of days, weeks,
or even decades.
However, we must take up the burden for it is not just my dream that is at stake.
It is the dream of every one of us, all children of God wherever we are, however we
pray. Be not afraid we shall fail, rather be afraid we must fail if we do not walk
together hand in hand. If we do this, failure is unthinkable, our victory sure and
certain; once blind, now found, each and every one of us by amazing grace
that saved a wretch like me.
Having finished his historic remarks, he slumped in the arms of his first
son. But he wanted just a minute more, to look at the site of his great triumphs.
He was tired now and it showed. But what also showed was his confidence
that his message was even now growing, his life's work secure.
All over the great mall people were singing "Amazing Grace", the well-known
lyrics on every screen. and holding hands, each link a bridge to tomorrow..
One giant screen showed Dr. King shaking hands with the people great and
small who came to touch him and see him off. In a moment, he was in
his car, now speeding into the dark night of eternity, his home for the ages.
This e-book is dedicated to Patrice Porter who urged me to write it and watched
it grow until her tears showed me I had written it just as she had wished it to be…
About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business
when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartener in Downers Grove, Illinois,
publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned
four college degrees, including the Ph.D. from Harvard.
He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities, quite possibly the
first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 50 books, thousands
of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television
He has founded several successful corporations and businesses
including his latest at ... www.drjeffreylant.com
His memoirs "A Connoisseur's Journey" have garnered nine prizes
that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is "Being the artful memoirs
of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy." You'll enjoy the read by
this man of so many letters.