Monday, Mar. 31, 2003

Marching for a Dream

Aug. 28, 1963

As a brilliant political speaker in his own right, John F. Kennedy observed Martin Luther King Jr.'s soul-stirring address to the huge throng at the Lincoln Memorial with a professional's eye. "He's damn good," he remarked to aides as they watched King on a TV set at the White House. According to King's biographer, Taylor Branch, Kennedy was especially impressed with King's departure from his prepared text to sound the electrifying refrain that became the oratorical high point of blacks' freedom struggle: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed ... I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood ... I have a dream that my four 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." A short time later, when King and other leaders of the March on Washington filed into the Cabinet Room to lobby for stronger provisions in Kennedy's proposed civil rights legislation, the President greeted King with a smile and a quip: "I have a dream."