The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Most Famous Speech
Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech 60 years ago was what the US nation calls “the moment that changed everything.” Millions of Americans celebrating today’s MLK national holiday will once again remember “the greatest political speech of the 20th century.”
Many will reminisce about the moment America “turned the mystic corner.” It was a crucial juncture in the civil rights movement that changed American history. More than 250,000 civil rights supporters heard him during the March for Freedom and Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1968, in Washington, DC.
Today, we honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by continuing his unfinished work to redeem the soul of America. pic.twitter.com/yJ4rmLyJyt
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 16, 2023
‘I Have a Dream’ was King’s call for economic and civil rights and the end of racism in the US. Many praised his speech, but some detractors focused on King’s intense criticism of poverty, war, and capitalism.
The essence of King’s dream was racial equality, but until now, many are still afraid of it.
🧵 of #MLK speeches and sermons in which he speaks truth to power, shares about his philosophy of nonviolence, and expounds on issues of injustice and what our righteous, rigorous response should be.
— The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center (@TheKingCenter) January 16, 2023
What Integration meant for Martin Luther King
The author of “A More Perfect Reunion: Race, Integration, and the Future of America,” Calvin Baker, cited that racial integration is “too threatening to the status quo to ever consider fully.” He also said that King’s idea of integration in his speech is the most “radical, discomfiting and transformative” concept in US politics.
Baker added, “It’s the thing the mainstream fears the most. It’s a beautiful speech, and it’s descriptive of integration. It sounds really good. And then you understand – whew – the work that’s required.”
Today is #MLKDay!
"We must all learn to live together as brothers – or we will all perish together as fools."
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) January 16, 2023
While millions of Americans praised his peaceful vision of integration in ‘I Have a Dream,’ many US schools, neighborhoods, and churches are still segregated today.
King said in his speech that he dreamed that one day “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.” He didn’t mean it to be just physical nearness. But he meant that all should have an equal opportunity to get a piece of the economic pie.
Why ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is so powerful
King also had said, “What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee.” Historians believe that King never believed integration to be the same as assimilation. Nor does he believe pushing people of color to behave like white people.
Today we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pic.twitter.com/KRcCR4HasL
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 16, 2023
Lewis V. Baldwin, author of “The Arc of Truth: The Thinking of Martin Luther King Jr.” said, “He didn’t have in mind a romantic mixing of colors, or what I would call a kind of ‘rubbing shoulders and elbows’ approach to integration.” What the Martin Luther King speech depicts is interpersonal living, mutual acceptance, and shared power.
It was also not by mistake that King quoted from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address in his iconic speech. According to King, many saw integration as a fulfillment of the American dream. Which is the final point of the quest for a perfect union.