King’s speech still resonates

Published 4:18 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Although I have only lived in Atmore for a little more than a year, I have already been very impressed by the way that this community celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

In far too many small towns, MLK Day is nothing more than an extra day off of work, but I love the fanfare and constant stream of events that Atmore (and its hard-working citizens and volunteers) provides.

I truly enjoyed the MLK celebration at Escambia County High School on Monday, and certainly one of the highlights was when keynote speaker Rev. Phillip Brown recited the entire speech from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” address on Aug. 28, 1963.

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Like many Americans, I am familiar with some of the most important passages from the speech, including “judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” And I’m sure that I have read the entire speech before. However, before Monday I had never been given the opportunity to hear the entire speech spoken out loud.

Brown did a phenomenal job, and if you closed your eyes, you could imagine a young King at the Washington Mall, voice bellowing as he delivered one of the greatest speeches in history.

Hearing the entire speech, and not just the excerpts, also gave me a better appreciation for some of King’s tone and language choice. The civil rights movement may have been mostly non-violent, but King still chose harsh words at times. I was surprised to hear King say such words as “down in Alabama, with its vicious racists;” “America has given the Negro people a bad check;” and “We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.”

Of course, King’s speech ends on a positive and hopeful note, and that is the part most of us are familiar with. However, I encourage everyone to read the entire speech sometime. It is definitely eye-opening.

And I hope that if Brown (or a similar speaker) returns next year, the auditorium will be standing-room only.