"I Have a Dream"
Martin Luther King's classic speech

"I Have a Dream" is Martin Luther King's most famous speech.

"I Have a Dream" was the capstone performance of the August 28, 1963, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that brought 250,000 Americans together at the Lincoln Memorial in a massive rally for civil rights.

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" wasn't the only speech that afternoon . . . a host of nationally known leaders orated from the podium: A. Phillip Randolph, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Walter Reuther . . . Catholic, Protestant and Crowd at the March on Washington Jewish religious leaders . . . and one woman, Josephine Baker, an internationally famous dancer, singer, and actress.

The speakers laid out a list of demands for legislation on civil rights and school desegregation. They cited the debilitating effects of prejudice and discrimination. They challenged the federal government to protect civil rights workers in the South.

But it was "I Have a Dream" that captured the nation's lasting attention. King cited the ills of discrimination and prejudice, but offered hope for the future. His stirring rhetoric captivated the crowd.

"I Have a Dream": the complete text

(Click here to see a video of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as he greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men -- yes, black men as well as white men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Martin Luther King

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi -- from every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring -- when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children -- black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics -- will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!""

[Distribution statement: Accepted as part of the Douglass Archives of American Public Address (http://douglass.speech.nwu.edu) on May 26, 1999. Prepared by D. Oetting (http://nonce.com/oetting). Permission is hereby granted to download, reprint, and/or otherwise redistribute this file, provided this distribution statement is included and appropriate point of origin credit is given to the preparer and Douglass.]

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Soda Springs

An excerpt from Soda Springs

MLK speaks to Rick:
we share a dream

Wednesday morning, the belching Case drowned out Rick’s anguish over the barrio’s defeat. But then, the tractor’s beat began hammering out strike chants: “two, four, six, eight, who we gonna liberate? Cis-co, Cis-co, Cis . . .”

A jackrabbit bounded alongside the tractor and zigzagged into uncut alfalfa; next round she would be in his path. The tractor was Soda Springs: relentless.

By noon, clouds formed over the Sangres and rolled toward him. He chomped down two baloney sandwiches as he drove. Even if he finished mowing before it rained, he wouldn’t have time to rake, let alone bale. No matter what, he would leave Friday for Cornell.

Midafternoon, shiny rain splotches dotted the hood. Lightning flashed. Thunder crashed, and rain pummeled him.

He raced for the shop. He flipped on KSCV: Lil Baker’s inane clubs report, “Valley Do-ins.” He jockeyed the radio to KOA-Denver: a pitch for Chevys. Then, mellifluous Walter Cronkite came through the static. “Mr. Randolph has come back to the podium, he . . .” Rick fussed with the dial. “. . . presenting Miss Mahalia Jackson.”

That civil rights rally in Washington? He checked Pops’ grimy wall calendar. August 28. He had forgotten.

Mahalia Jackson sang a cappella, and a roar drowned out the last echoes of her song. Cronkite said it was hot and two hundred thousand people had been crammed into the mall for hours. A rabbi came to the podium. Rick imagined Charlie popping jokes, Deb beside him, all goo-goo eyes.

Outside, the rain let up, but the yard oozed goo. No more mowing today.

Cronkite again: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. next. Rick wiped down the Case as if it were a prize foal. Through the static, King cried, “Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.”

Rick chimed in, “And others from sopping wet alfalfa fields.”

King said he dreamed about the red hills of Georgia. “My dream is that Concha will come with me to the gorge-studded hills of Ithaca,” Rick replied.

Man, that was stupid to ask her to live with me. She’ll never speak to me again, Rick thought.

Even over static-encrusted KOA, King wrung nuance from every syllable, turned pauses into insights. He’d been jailed, beaten, stabbed. Yet, he dreamed on. “With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together, struggle together, go to jail together.”

Little shouts of joy punctuated his words: "Amen. Amen, Lord."

“Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York . . . from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.”

Wow, King zipped from Washington into Pop’s very shop and shifted into overdrive. The static melted away.

“From every mountainside, let freedom ring . . . from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city . . . speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’”

King’s dream rolled down from Lincoln Memorial over the crowd, crossed the Sangre de Cristos, gathered in the San Juan foothills, and came to rest in a tiny cementerio beside the old Catholic church at Las Piedras.

Every village and hamlet. Protestants and Catholics. Mexicans and whites. Farmers and farmworkers. Freedom together, not separately.

“Continue until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Keep it up until you free the Cisco Kid, until justice hunts down Tommy’s murderer.

Rick knew the barrio couldn’t right the wrongs of history in one summer; racism ran too deep. But they had to struggle on. Martin Luther King demanded it.

Soda Springs’ battle had only begun, and Dr. King called on him personally to join him: You out there in the Rockies, in Soda Springs, Colorado. You, Rick Sanders.

At last, the summer made sense.

Rick’s mission wasn’t in Birmingham, nor Washington, D.C. Go back to the Rockies, to Sanders Farms in your little village of Soda Springs. That’s where he was meant to be. And not only for the summer. Dr. King committed himself to a cause greater than himself; that was his dream. Rick had failed this summer in part because he dreamed of lust, not justice. He had to stay and fight with Concha, even if it cost him his family and earned him white Soda Springs’ eternal hatred. “So long, Cornell. It’s been nice.”

A double rainbow broke through the haze. Rick’s hay lay water-logged. At best, raking was two days away. No matter. He could rake and bale next week.

“Thanks, Martin, if nothing else, I’ll get Pops’ hay up this summer.” He sharpened the mower blades and gassed the tractor. He had to be ready for every ray of sunshine.

Rick raced for town to deliver his vision to Concha. En route, he sobered up. For a few euphoric moments, Martin Luther King trumped reality. Concha would eviscerate him. Am I some puta to live with you in sin?

Worse, she would have told Elias and Nacho. You gringos beat us, so now you dare ask Conchita to be your mistress? They would come for him with Espino’s cutters, brandishing their razor-sharp lettuce knives. Nah, he was being melodramatic.

He pulled up to Concha’s house, and a new thought struck. What if she chose Chicago? He would not only lose her, he would be left behind to face the cavalry by himself.

-- Soda Springs, Chapter 91