Monday, January 17, 2011

"I Have a Dream" speechwriter shares tales of famous speech


Attorney Clarence Jones, who helped to write Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famed "I Have a Dream" speech, has written a new book, Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation. In this interview with NPR's Fresh Air, Jones shares some of the behind-the-scenes stories leading to King's iconic speech.

Among them is the story of how the order of speakers that day was determined.  King wanted to speak last to conclude the program, but didn't want to say so. In negotiating with the many groups' representatives involved in the planning, Jones merely said, "Do you want to follow Martin Luther King?"  The interview also includes a winning tale of how King used a public sermon to convince Jones to change his mind about helping the civil rights movement, an artful use of a public speech to convince one audience member. (Affiliate link)


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On MLK Day: Put yourself in the shoes of a famous speaker

It's not often that you can put yourself in the shoes of a famous speaker, but you can come close if you visit Washington, DC's Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.  The spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech is marked so you can stand there and look out over the mall as he did on the day of that famous speech.  From Wikipedia:

The "I Have a Dream" speech is such a part of the Lincoln Memorial story, that the spot on which King stood, on the landing eighteen steps below Lincoln's statue, was engraved in 2003 in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the event.
If you do visit the Lincoln Memorial, the National Park Service does daily programs about the "I Have a Dream" speech at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. daily.  And it's worth noting that women had no speaking role on the day of the "I Have a Dream" speech, although prominent women from the civil rights movement like Rosa Parks were present.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speaking continues to inspire the speakers of today, as this TED Talks compilation shows--there are links so you can listen to his "I have a dream" speech as well as speeches inspired by him.
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