will be shown during Chris Hayes' show on Wednesday, August 28, the exact day of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Samer put up a diary encouraging people to DVR it, and I want to echo Samer's request.
There will be more famous people than I analyzing the speech on Wednesday night.
But what started out as a long comment on Samer's diary has turned into a standalone piece in case I am working late Wednesday and miss the conversation here.
I would just like to point out a few things for people who may be getting ready to see the speech in its entirety for the first time.
It will be exciting to see the speech on my TV--the biggest screen I have ever seen it on. I set my DVR when Al Sharpton mentioned it on PoliticsNation.
But it's not as though this is some kind of rare footage and if you forget to tape it you will never see it. The speech in its entirety is already available many places on YouTube.
Here are some interesting facts for first-time viewers, along with some personal observations about why the speech worked so well.
Approximately the first half was the prepared text. Watch--you can tell he is looking down and reading it. He reads it beautifully of course, in his hypnotically melodic preacher's cadence.
But as he is coming to the end of his prepared speech, at about the 11 minute mark, the audience response drops off a bit. He has reached a section that has all the earmarks of a big finish (go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities... let us not wallow in the valley of despair) but the audience is not at a peak of response worthy of creating the memorable ending this great day and this great march deserve. He is the closing speaker. The one many of them came to hear. He wants to send them out on fire.
Sometime before this point, either before the speech even began, or around the 11 minute mark covered up by applause, Mahalia Jackson apparently said to him "tell them about the dream, Martin".
MLK had given versions of the I have a dream speech on other occasions. Perhaps Mahalia had heard it already herself. Some have marveled that the end of the speech was extemporaneous, as though he were improvising it on the spot. He was not. It was sort of like a stump speech that he knew by heart. But he took the best parts of it, the most rousing parts, the most uplifting parts, and reassembled them on the spot, in front of the biggest audience who had ever heard him. That is still pretty freaking amazing.
So as he segues into a speech that is tried and true, one he knows is sure to connect with the assembly, he is no longer looking down and reading. He is looking up.
At some points even looking far off into the distance as if he can actually see the future.
As if he can actually see the dream unfolding.
The closing minutes are more familiar because they are played every year at this time and on the anniversary of his birth and death. These closing minutes are spectacular enough to deserve every accolade heaped upon them. He quotes the Declaration of Independence, he quotes a patriotic song, he quotes events ripped from the headlines, he quotes Old Testament scripture, he quotes hymn lyrics, he names mountains and mountain ranges all over the country--from EVERY mountainside! Let freedom ring!
He is definitely in that flow that preachers and musicians and other live performers strive for--where he and the listeners are one. People who were there, people who heard it live, felt his words merging with the response of the crowd, and it was electrifying.
Most people outside the black church had never heard a speech/sermon/prophetic utterance like this before.
And the people who were accustomed to it, were uplifted and spiritually encouraged and literally enthused, just as surely as if they were in church with 250,000 other people under the great and open cathedral sky.
In the closing seconds the content and the musicality of his delivery and the historical importance and the prophetic glory all come together perfectly. Free at last... (climbing the mountain--pitch rising with a leading tone) free at last (pitch rising to another leading tone--will we make it?), thank GOD ALMIGHTY! (over the top!) We are free at last. (safe on the other side. whew!)
Thus did the I Have a Dream speech slide effortlessly from unforgettable public address to Spirit-filled sermon. MLK's words and delivery carried more than a quarter million people up and over the obstacles of historic struggle into a shared vision of a righteous future.
His dream had become our dream. Martin's dream became everyone's dream. King's dream became the country's dream, at least for those people in the country who wanted to live up to the Declaration of Independence, who wanted to make patriotic songs come true, who dared believe in the American ideal of freedom and justice for all.
But for the racists who do not believe in that ideal, it was a warning shot over the bow. They have been running scared ever since. Kennedy greeting King at the White House after that incendiary speech (yes, incendiary! it set people on fire whether they were for or against!) was an important step along the realignment road that caused many Dixiecrats to leave the Democratic party. Their great granddaddy's daddy hated the man whose memorial King had spoken in front of, but the Democratic party was inviting rabble-rousing black agitators to the White House! And for the Klan, it was literally incendiary--many activists at the time believed the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church 18 days later was specifically done in response to the I Have a Dream speech.
I have heard this speech countless times in the last 50 years, and i still get a chill down my spine and goosebumps every time. Every. Single. Time. it's a combination of the majesty of the original speech, a visceral response that is by now almost a conditioned response, an awareness of the assassination to come, and realizing that though we have made it a long way (Thanks, Obama!) we still have such a long way to go.
So I strongly encourage everyone, especially those who has never seen/heard the speech in its entirety, to watch Chris Hayes on Wednesday or set your DVR. It is a speech that deserves to be watched on this significant anniversary.
It is a speech that deserves to be remembered for generations to come.