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strategies in speaking

I Have a Dream Speech – One of the Best in US History

Today we celebrate the life and accomplishments of a great man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr

Originally delivered on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King’s I Have a Dream Speech inspired not only the thousands who were present on the mall that day, but an entire nation then and continues to inspire new generations today.

Sadly, most Americans have never seen this speech in its entirety. Most of us have seen the powerful 2-3 minute version that begins with, “I have a dream…” which comes in at about 12:22 into the full speech, but have never heard his beautiful oratorical “Now is the time” litany in which Dr. King spoke about, “Lifting our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. NOW is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

I get goosebumps every time I hear it — the ENTIRE speech. Give yourself a gift and take the 17 minutes to watch one of the greatest speeches in the history of the United States of America. As you watch, pay attention to some of the tools Dr. King uses that made his speech one of the greatest in US history. Because YOU can use the same exact tools and strategies in speaking as well.

Addressing ALL Members of His Audience: Beginning around the 8:29 mark, note how Dr. King acknowledges his message is not only for African Americans, but for everyone including the “white people” in attendance.

Emphasizing Important Points with Repetition: When you have something important to say — repeat it. Dr. King repeated several phrases including “Now is the time,” “We can never be satisfied as long as…,” “Let freedom ring,” as well as “I have a dream” several times.

Speaking with Passion: Anyone listening can hear Dr. King’s personal conviction and passion for his topic.

Using Metaphors and Similes to Paint Pictures with Words: Watch as Dr. King invokes powerful phrases and forces such as “righteousness like a mighty stream” (around 10:41).

Repeating Popular Details: Dr. King shares the words of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America beginning at about the 12:33 mark. One of our country’s founding documents, Americans know it and are moved by its meanings and as audience members are therefore more likely to be moved by the sharing of those words in the context of the speech.

Dr. King’s delivery was in fact NOT perfect. He got caught up and stumbled on his words a few times throughout the speech. Nobody cared. People do not remember those few occasional mistakes… they remember the power of his message. If Dr. King was worried about being a perfect speaker, the world would never have heard any of Dr. King’s inspiring speeches. You don’t have to be perfect either. Get your message out to the world.

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