I was 13 years old when Martin Luther King and thousands of brave people marched on Washington D.C. I heard him tell me of his dream and it became my own dream. I have used this speech, probably his best-known, in my public speaking class hundreds of times, having them listen to the words of vision, the grace of language. I use it for many reasons. First, I want the students to recognize that language means something, that how we talk about things creates an environment. I also want them to be moved by a speaker, bringing to them something they think they know but most have never heard all 18 minutes. And part of my goal in presenting an audio recording rather than a visual recording of this speech is that I want them to notice King's speech isn't perfectly presented, that he makes a couple of vocal hesitations, and to realize that if he can make speaking mistakes, so can they.
It never ceases to thrill me to listen to King speak. I always find something new in this speech I have heard thousands of times. It always brings me peace and yet a sense of urgency to make my home right, my nation right, the world.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma-to-Montgomery, perhaps King's most successful march, I am once again reminded of the importance of following our path towards our dreams. In his speech at the end of this march, King said of a nation we could become, a “society of justice where none would prey upon the weakness of
others; a society of plenty where greed and poverty would be done away;
a society of brotherhood where every man would respect the dignity and
worth of human personality.”
I still have the dream to work toward King's vision. On this third Monday in January, as on every Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I rededicate my life to helping others, to helping bring peace to our lives, to helping grown a stronger nation.
"On this day, let us celebrate Dr. King's life. But more importantly, let us recommit ourselves to making his dream a reality." -- Morris Dees, founder of Southern Poverty Law