"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." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963, fifty years ago at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In honor of the anniversary of that great moment, take some time to talk about it with your tweens.
You can watch the speech below and read it here. Yes, it is long in the eyes of a tween, but the 17 minute speech is absolutely worth watching.
Here are some interesting facts about the speech.
- Dr. King had a case of writer's block. His speech would be the final one of the day, and he knew he had to have a big finish for the 200,000 to 300,000 people present at the march. (The figure varies by source.)
- Though he did write his speech, he improvised at the end. Gospel queen Mahalia Jackson shouted over the crowd: "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" And so he did, as Clarence Page describes, "Like an oratorical jazz musician he smoothly segued into an improvised version of the 'dream' refrain that he had used to great effect in speeches earlier that year." In the prior drafts of his speech, the "I have a dream" refrain does not appear.
- King used the phrase "I have a dream" in Chicago a week before the March on Washington and in Detroit two months before that.
- The "I Have a Dream" speech references many documents important in American history, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation. Have your tween identify where they appear in the speech.
- The working title of the speech was "Normalcy — Never Again."
- American Rhetoric ranks it as the top speech of the 20th century.
- The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was designed so that the statue of Dr. King looks directly at the Lincoln Memorial, where he delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech.
- In 1965, King told an audience in Chicago, "I have had to watch my dream transformed into a nightmare."
Parents can and should talk with tweens about this speech is important. What do they think? What parts of the dream do they think have been realized? What has not been realized? What do thy think King would say about society today?
If possible, have them talk with grandparents and other relatives who were alive at the time. What do they remember about it?
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 9 things you didn't know about "America the Beautiful"
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