Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the foreground with other people standing attentively in the background

"I Have a Dream" Speech

by Martin Luther King Jr.

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Student Question

What are the reasons for Martin Luther King's emotional outburst in his speech?

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Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, delivered in front of thousands of attendees at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, is remembered, ironically, for a quote that was not originally included in his planned remarks. The overall speech is characterized by a connection between King's interpretation of the founding principles of the United States and the Civil Rights Movement. He abandoned his planned remarks midway through the address and moved into the famous "I have a dream" theme on the spur of the moment. Yet it was not exactly an emotional outburst. He had referenced a "dream" before in many of his speeches and sermons, and the overall theme of the second part of the speech, racial harmony and reconciliation, was a common refrain of his. The dramatic setting, however, combined with King's masterful delivery of these soaring ideas, gave the speech an emotional weight that makes it among the greatest examples of American oratory.

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