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20 years

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MLK: ‘I Have a Dream’: A Half-Century Later, Still the Greatest Speech of the Century

It will come as no surprise  that Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered 50 years ago this week has been ranked number 1 among all famous speeches of the past century. 

As we reflect on his iconic, emotional and moving words we discover some interesting facts from a professional communications perspective.  For instance, the ‘dream’ phrase had been used in a speech Dr. King delivered in Detroit just a few weeks before the March on Washington.  Reportedly, it didn't resonate very well.  Some of MLK’s advisors cautioned that this phrase should not be uttered to the crowd assembling in DC.  How wrong they were!

Understandably, in MLK’s inner circle, there were a great deal of opinions voiced in the days and hours before the final speech content was finalized.  Many differed on what the content should be, the length, the tone, the pitch, the emphasis and on and on.  But all agreed that this speech would be historical and very important, even if they weren't quite able to predict the degree of magnitude.  As we have learned it was a last second reminder from singer Mahalia Jackson, that perhaps prompted King to extemporize, when she said, “Tell them about the ‘dream’.”

50 years later, it seems clear to this communications pro that despite our digital age with near endless channels of communication, it’s a public speech, a keynote speech, even a global employee town hall that  can still generate great and lasting emotion, galvanizing action and even a culture shift.


Suggestion:  When you have the power of a pulpit, consider the impact and make a connection with your audience. 

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