file000745603608Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a holiday for many. And because we’re writers and speakers and have dreams of becoming even better at what we do, let’s take a look at Dr. King’s powerful “I Have a Dream” speech, which changed the course of history and still resonates powerfully more than fifty years later.

Did you know that this incredibly moving speech that Dr. King delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was not the one he prepared to give that day? He changed his words midstream based on reading the pulse of the crowd and “feeling” what the people wanted.

As a lesson on how one man became one of the most celebrated speakers in history and what we, as speakers and writers can glean from it, read writer Michiko Kakutani’s dissection of the speech in this New York Times article.


  • Dr. King was in the moment. That’s what allowed him to “feel” what the crowd wanted and deliver to them, and the result was nothing short of magic.
  • He had a gift for oratory and the ability to connect with his audience.
  • He layered his speech with story and history.
  • He used vivid imagery and played off literary and even musical references.

I wanted to link this post to a film of this incredible speech, but it’s copyrighted. You can read the text here, however: