Reflections on MLK's "I Have a Dream" Speech

The news and websites have an abundance of reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King's infamous "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered 50 years ago, on August 28, 1963.

  • PR Daily identified five "lessons for speechwriters":
    • Emphasize phrases by repeating at the beginning of sentences
    • Repeat key "theme" words throughout your speech
    • Utilize appropriate quotations or allusions
    • Use specific examples to "ground" your arguments
    • Use metaphors to highlight contrasting concepts

Why does Dr. King's "Dream" speech exert such a potent hold on people around the world and across the generations? Part of its resonance resides in Dr. King's moral imagination. Part of it resides in his masterly oratory and gift for connecting with his audience - be they on the Mall that day in the sun or watching the speech on television or, decades later, viewing it online. And part of it resides in his ability, developed over a lifetime, to convey the urgency of his arguments through language richly layered with biblical and historical meanings.