Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Power of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches

If you can listen to Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech and your soul is not stirred and your eyes are dry, you may want to take a long look at the (wo)man in the mirror. I only single out that speech of his because it is well-known. I could say the same thing about any other speech or sermon of his that I am aware of. Since early childhood, I have known about the speech, and since the very first time I heard it, it has always uplifted me, given me hope, and empowered me at the deepest level. For most of my life, I never really understood why. I just knew what it did to me. There are some songs like this, that we always are drawn to, but we really don't question why. Major portions of the speech were originally from Archibald Carey Jr.'s 1952 Republican Convention speech, but that fact does not diminish the power of the words. (,_Jr.). Only recently have I truly discovered why the speech is so powerful. Before I get into my new understanding of the speech, let us remember Martin Luther King's background.

Dr. Martin Luther King was a prodigy. He became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama at twenty five years old, in 1954. He then "began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Ph.D. degree on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation on 'A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman'."
(,_Jr.)(Again, BU found plagiarism in major portions of this work as well). These lofty accomplishments in his early twenties pale in comparison to what he would ultimately accomplish. It is important to remember the depth of his Christian roots when listening to his speeches.

When Dr. King speaks, there is absolutely no doubt that he is 100% committed to his words. This strength of conviction cannot come from empty faith, self-aggrandizing oration, or academic speechwriting. It comes from a wellspring of spirit far deeper. When a person like me who did not grow up religious, and had little exposure to this wellspring is showered in it, we try to attribute it to the person producing it, mistaking the map for the territory it describes. Recently, I have come closer to understanding that wellspring, and this speech points the way to it.

The primary "soul force" that Dr. King speaks of comes from his multiple biblical references in his incredible speech. It continues to stir today, because it contains the living word of God. Having heard this speech so many times in my life, I immediately found familiarity when I happened to open my bible to Isaiah 40:4-5:

(KJV): “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain….”

It all became clear at that moment. The power of the entire non-violent civil rights movement was because it's heart and acts were directly rooted in biblical commandment and faith. If you need any more convincing of why this speech is powerful to you, here are some more biblical references in this speech:

If you are not a believer, you may find it remarkable, even "unbelievable" that Christians like Dr. Martin Luther king risk their lives in conviction for living and speaking the words of God every day. Whether you are an Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Wiccan or whatever, we can all agree that this speech is a powerful, powerful force for good right? Your job is to make sure that Dr. King's dream comes true. If not you, who?

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