When I was a senior in high school I took U.S. Government. I had a young, kind of odd but brilliant, teacher. He was very liberal. He was like a lot of us when we first came out of college, he believed with every ounce of his being he was going to change the world and his vehicle was going to be his students. He wasn’t liked by most students, though, because he required a major project to be completed in his class — Research Paper! As seniors the only research we wanted to do was what we were going to do after high school! 99% of the kids, begrudging, did the assigned task. He did, though, give options. One option was to recite a famous speech. Ever being the one to look for the easiest way out, I thought ‘heck, I’m doing a speech!’ That has to be easier than writing a paper…
I was the only one in my class to give a speech. I was to memorize a least 5 minutes of a famous speech in U.S. history, standup in front of my classmates and give this speech on the last day of class. The speech I selected was Dr. King’s I Have A Dream. When I selected the speech I had never actually heard the full speech. I had seen parts in movies he had shown in class, but never heard the full speech. It was so powerful.
Now you have to remember back in 1988 we didn’t have Google or YouTube or iPods or MP3s or CDs even — I had a vinyl copy of Dr. King’s speech. I had to listen to the speech probably 100 times, manually write down each line, then memorize it and give it. Because I had listened to the speech so many times, I gave it with the same timing and inflections as he did (well, not even close, but I tried). I got an ‘A’. My teacher was very happy to see this 115 lb, small white kid with Red hair speaking the words of such a great black man — to him I think it was the essence of what Dr. King’s speech was all about.
If you haven’t heard this for a while take a listen on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech: