King's Dream Being Realized 45 Years Later
As Sen. Barack Obama makes history on Aug. 28, 2008, by becoming the first black major-party nominee for president of the United States, he will be fulfilling a dream that was expressed exactly 45 years ago in an electrifying speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of the March on Washington.
More than 200,000 people from around the country jammed Washington’s National Mall in August 1963 in a public demand for jobs, freedom and civil rights legislation for the nation’s black citizens. It was the largest peaceful demonstration in U.S. history at the time and was backed by the six major civil rights groups in the country.
Media interest was high. Many of the nation’s major newspapers, particularly black newspapers, sent reporters to cover the march. CBS televised continuous coverage. The communications satellite Telstar beamed the march to European audiences. "All the major European countries except Spain and Portugal asked for the relayed pictures of the protest march," The New York Times reported. ABC and NBC broke into their regularly scheduled programming to broadcast King’s speech live.
When King rose to deliver what would become one of the most famous speeches in history, he was the last of 10 people on the program to make remarks. His "I Have a Dream" speech lasted approximately 16 minutes and was frequently interrupted by rousing applause.
"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," King declared. When the speech ended, its impact was widespread and immediately felt.
- "Peroration by Dr. King Sums Up a Day the Capital Will Remember," The New York Times said the next day.
- "Negroes Given Rallying Cry by Dr. M.L. King Jr.," the weekly Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper, declared 10 days later. The speech was a "clarion call to arms which America can never forget," the paper added.
President John F. Kennedy, who was against the march, was reportedly impressed with its orderliness and with King’s speech. "He’s damned good," he said.
Forty-five years later, King’s dream is being realized. History will determine if Obama’s much-anticipated acceptance speech rose to the occasion.