Americas and Oceania Collections blog

28 August 2013

The Fierce Urgency of Now: Dr King's 'I Have a Dream' revisited

A rather comfortable morning at the US Embassy, London: US geniality, good coffee, some pastries, and padded seats in the auditorium.  An ambassador, several professors, a lord (and director-general of the BBC), as well as students.  Outside, the sun was shining. 

We were here for a live airing of the BBC Radio 4 and World Service programme, 'I Have a Dream', a 50th anniversary tribute to Dr King's speech at the March on Washington on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., on 28 August 1963.  Introduced by Professor Clayborne Carson, editor of the Martin Luther King papers, the radio programme, which was broadcast around the world, began with the voice of Dr King booming out over the National Mall, and was then taken up by human rights activists from around the world: including Congressman John Lewis, Doreen Lawrence, Mary Robinson and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  The oration was concluded by Stevie Wonder, declaiming the words much in the manner of Dr King.

The airing was introduced by Ambassador Barzun, two mornings into his new job.  As we sat in our comfy chairs, he reminded us that the full name of the March on Washington was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and that freedom was not possible without economic opportunity.  This, and the sadly still-present legacy of slavery and racism are likely, one suspects to be themes touched on by President Obama during today's commemorations.   As Dr King said in his great speech: '1963 is not an end, but a beginning.' 

Today's events are being live-streamed here by the State Department.



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