Perspectives on King’s ‘Dream’ Speech Planned

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HOPE – It has been considered among the iconic speeches of American political and social history; but, it was never intended to be delivered as it was given when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged a quarter-million people on a hot August day in 1963 by declaring, “I have a dream.”

Perhaps, the most famous of the late civil rights leader’s addresses, Dr. King’s speech will be the focus of perspectives by Hope educators, ministers, civic leaders, and others in a roundtable discussion Feb. 20 at Yerger Middle School.

Sponsored by the Hope Public Schools during Black History Month, the event is open to the public and will begin at 6 p.m. in the YMS cafeteria. A video presentation will precede the discussion, and questions for the discussion will be drawn from submissions by social studies students at Hope High School.

Eighth Judicial District-North Circuit Judge Randy Wright will moderate the discussion.

The text of the original speech Dr. King intended to present at the now-famous March on Washington on Aug. 28,1963, does not contain the historic phrase, “I have a dream,” according to the former University of Iowa basketball coach who was given the manuscript after the event.

In a 2013 interview, George Raveling, the first black head basketball coach at Iowa, showed television reporter James Brown the manuscript King gave him in a chance encounter after the speech.

“’It doesn’t have a title… It’s not identified as ‘I have a dream.’ You simply see the date and the time. You’ll see that he pretty much followed the script,’ said Raveling.

‘I noticed there’s an asterisk here on the copy of the speech,’ Brown pointed out.

‘Right here is where we – we now go into the ad-libbed part of the ‘I have a dream’ speech,’ said Raveling.’”

The compelling rhetoric which turned a simple 16-minute address in the last speech of the day into a generational call to duty was spoken by Dr. King in the moment, drawing upon themes he had addressed in Rocky Mount, N.C., Detroit, Mich., and other places, according to a 2013 Religion News Service story.

“’On the one hand, he appeals to Scripture and the Constitution,’ Columbia University Professor of Religion and African-American Studies Josef Sorett notes in the story. ‘At the same time he’s also critiquing those texts because the nation has not lived up to what it professes to be.’”

Vanderbilt University Professor of Religion Lewis Baldwin summarized the point in the RNS story.

“’The American Dream is still something that we have to work toward and we have to struggle for,’ Baldwin said. ‘We have to be on a mission to achieve it.’”

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