I Have a Dream
"I Have a Dream" is a public speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington on August 28, 1963, in which he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. The speech was a defining moment of the civil rights movement and among the most iconic speeches in American history.
- 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 one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still 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.
- 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 inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 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 which 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 the security of justice.
- 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 open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. 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. And those who hope 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. And 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 their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
- 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 self-hood 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 the 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.
- Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, 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 slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a 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, 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 with which I return to the South. 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 when all of God's children will be able to sing with a 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. 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 snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks 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 every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
- When we let freedom 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!"
- Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the 28 August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, synthesized portions of his previous sermons and speeches, with selected statements by other prominent public figures... As King and his advisors prepared his speech for the conclusion of the 1963 march, he solicited suggestions for the text. Clarence Jones offered a metaphor for the unfulfilled promise of constitutional rights for African Americans, which King incorporated into the final text: “America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned”... King recalled that he did not finish the complete text of the speech until 3:30 A.M. on the morning of 28 August. Later that day, King stood at the podium overlooking the gathering. Although a typescript version of the speech was made available to the press on the morning of the march, King did not merely read his prepared remarks. He later recalled: “I started out reading the speech, and I read it down to a point … the audience response was wonderful that day…. And all of a sudden this thing came to me that … I’d used many times before.... ‘I have a dream.’ And I just felt that I wanted to use it here … I used it, and at that point I just turned aside from the manuscript altogether. I didn’t come back to it” (King, 29 November 1963).
- Dr. King touched all the themes of the day, only better than anybody else. He was full of the symbolism of Lincoln and Gandhi, and the cadences of the Bible. He was both militant and sad, and he sent the crowd away feeling that the long journey had been worthwhile” (Reston, “‘I Have a Dream …’”).
- James Reston quoted by The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University, Quoting from Reston's “‘I Have a Dream…’: Peroration by Dr. King Sums Up a Day the Capital Will Remember,” New York Times, 29 August 1963.
- Let the strivings of us all, prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war. Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Let a new age dawn!
- Nelson Mandela, at the end of his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Address (10 December 1993)
- Unlike the others commemorated in this place, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a president of the United States — at no time in his life did he hold public office... Like Moses before him, he would never live to see the Promised Land. But from the mountain top, he pointed the way for us — a land no longer torn asunder with racial hatred and ethnic strife, a land that measured itself by how it treats the least of these, a land in which strength is defined not simply by the capacity to wage war but by the determination to forge peace — a land in which all of God's children might come together in a spirit of brotherhood.
We have not yet arrived at this longed for place. For all the progress we have made, there are times when the land of our dreams recedes from us — when we are lost, wandering spirits, content with our suspicions and our angers, our long-held grudges and petty disputes, our frantic diversions and tribal allegiances. And yet, by erecting this monument, we are reminded that this different, better place beckons us, and that we will find it not across distant hills or within some hidden valley, but rather we will find it somewhere in our hearts.
- Barack Obama, in his address at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Groundbreaking Ceremony (13 November 2006)
- I'm more determined than ever that my husband's dream will become a reality.
- Coretta Scott King, soon after his death, as quoted in A Wonderful Life: 50 Eulogies to Lift the Spirit (2006), edited by Cyrus Copeland, p. 76
- How many know that Dr. King, with a phraseology reminiscent of the biblical prophets, also said, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism?” Or, “There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’”... The “I Have a Dream Speech” speech reads like an activists’ wake up alarm. Tens of thousands of grassroots activists worked hard to win this president’s reelection. With Obama’s inauguration in a few weeks, can we revitalize the profound calling in Kings’ speech to really tackle the struggles we face today — a polarized Congress, a Tea Party-infused Republican right, high unemployment, a regressive attack on women’s rights to our own bodies, a decades-long epidemic of gun violence in our inner cities, a fragmented healthcare system? In the second term of our first black presidency, can we not just honor Dr. King’s words as history, but infect ourselves with his passion for creating the change we believe in? Along with losing weight and exercising more, make a political New Year’s resolution this year. But first, for inspiration and vision, read Dr. King’s speech.
- We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions; how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike. His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.
- Barack Obama's Remarks at the "Let Freedom Ring" Ceremony Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. (August 28, 2013)
- Schools across the country celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Day today... Many schools show his historic “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, a speech given before hundreds of thousands... Dr. King’s commitment provides a wonderful example for all of us, but particularly for the young. By the wisdom of his teaching, the justice of his cause, the intensity of his commitment, he helped transform America. Today, Dr. King’s example is more important than ever. Inequality has reached new extremes. We have a president that purposefully rouses racial and ethnic fears and divisions. Politics has become bitter, partisan, and increasingly marked by extreme and often hateful rhetoric. We are spending more and more on the Pentagon—already the largest military budget by far in the world—and cutting back on programs for the vulnerable, everything from food stamps, to Medicaid, to public housing and aid for poor schools and students. We end up with guided missiles and misguided young people—a tragic waste. Today, a new PPoor People’s Campaign is building, organizing lines of race, region, and religion. It has been marching on state legislatures and now is increasing pressure on Washington. It is not about right or left, but about right and wrong. Dr. King called on us to express the better angels of our souls. Now, as we celebrate his life, we would do well to put his lessons into practice.
- In this time of division and hatred, I’ve found myself returning time and again to Dr King’s words as a source of comfort and guidance, and a number of things have struck me. First is how overtly Christian the speech was, imbued throughout with biblical theology. Of course Dr King was a Baptist minister, so this is no surprise, but his faith was clearly central to everything he said and did and he wasn’t embarrassed, unlike most politicians and even senior clergy today, to make this plain.
Second, far from wanting to destroy America, as many modern activists advocate, he wanted to build it up. He saw the “magnificent” words of the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as a “promissory note” to deliver “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to all Americans.For black Americans this had become a “bad cheque” that had come back marked “insufficient funds” and he saw it as nothing less than a sacred obligation on his fellow countrymen to put right this injustice.