#82 MLK and JFK in 1963

On August 28, 2013

Hello Everyone,

On this date exactly half a century ago, I had returned to Amherst College for my senior year and, in the humid heat of August, for pre-season football practice (ok, I know the latter is hard to believe.)  I had returned to the bubble that was Amherst College in 1963 with TVs scarce, “long distance” phone calls prohibitively expensive, snail mail slow, and few other means of connecting with the outside world.  So, I barely noticed the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s speech that day. 

Less than two months later, President Kennedy came to the College to deliver what turned out to be one of this last speeches before he was assassinated less than one month after that.  I was sequestered for a football game that day, so I missed that one, too (although a picture of him at the podium continues to hang in my office.)  In part, he said this there:  

Privilege is here, and with privilege goes responsibility…it must be a source of satisfaction to you that this school’s graduates have recognized it…There is inherited wealth in this country and also inherited poverty. And unless the graduates of this college and other colleges like it who are given a running start in life–unless they are willing to put back into our society, those talents, the broad sympathy, the understanding, the compassion–unless they are willing to put those qualities back into the service of the Great Republic, then obviously the presuppositions upon which our democracy are based are bound to be fallible.

The problems which this country now faces are staggering, both at home and abroad. We need the service, in the great sense, of every educated man or woman…to make it possible for Americans of all different races and creeds to live together in harmony, to make it possible for a world to exist in diversity and freedom. All this requires the best of all of us.

I am still moved, as I’m sure most of you are, by what happened fifty years ago today.

And, while I have heard endless clips of the “dream” portion of Dr. King’s historic speech, I felt the need to go back and read it in its entirety – a habit of reading important speeches, not just watching them – a habit which I have shared with you before.

So, I have attached the copyrighted version of Dr. King’s text and urge you to read it (see Attachment 1).  It is as close to the spoken version as I can find – even though a few words are different, and it includes the “I have a dream” riff which was reportedly ad-libbed.

I have also attached a highly informative analysis of the speech’s genesis from today’s New York Times in case you haven’t seen it yet (see Attachment 2).

I commend both to you.   August 28, October 26, and November 22, 1963, will be days always firmly rooted in my memory; two of those days changed the trajectory of our country.

Please, as always, pass it on.  And, remember that previous Obamagrams are stored on www.obamagrams.com  


adobe pdf file

 Attachment 1 – MLK Jr – I Have a Dream


adobe pdf fileAttachment 2 – NYT – The Lasting Power…8-28-13


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