I Have a Dream: The Speech and Story

Today we reflect on the life and message of Martin Luther King Jr. Here are some nuggets about the I Have a Dream speech. Appropriately, it comes up again and again, in studies of metaphor, engagement and story.

  • Dr. King finished writing his speech at 4am, just hours before his address. It was originally entitled, “Normalcy, Never Again.”
  • King used over FIFTY metaphors in his speech! Contained therein was was an extended and powerful frame of the biblical struggle for freedom and the American struggle for freedom.

    From Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas – John Pollack

  • “I Have a Dream” represents a CHANGE of story to INSPIRE and LEAD! In The Story Factor, Annette Simmons writes that Dr. King’s refrain offers a positive vision that, “inspires generations to change their story from “I have been oppressed” to “I have a dream.”

  • The original and prepared speech did not contain the phrase, “I Have a Dream!” 11 mins into the speech gospel singer Mahalia Jackson — sitting behind Dr. King — shouted “Tell ’em about the ‘dream,’ Martin, tell ’em about the ‘dream’!”

    Dr. King recalled that he ‘just decided’ to go with it! In front of millions, he started RIFFING!

    There is no substitute for authenticity. When I listen to Dr. King’s speech I believe I can FEEL his heart kick it up a notch with each riff. (Dr. King’s final speech ended up being DOUBLE the length of his prepared remarks.)

    Story recounted in Originals by Adam Grant, and Shortcut.

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