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Kim Tomsic

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lincoln and King

One day following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I can't stop thinking about an interview I heard on NPR.  It featured one of Dr. King's close friends and advisers, Clarence Jones.

Clarence B. Jones is the author (along with Stuart Connelly) of "Behind the Dream:  The Making of the Speech that Transformed the Nation" (Publisher: Pagrave MacMillian, January 4, 2011).  Dr. King's Dream speech is as famous as Lincoln's Gettysburg address.  It's interesting to observe how both men came about speaking their famous words.

In Lincoln's case, his address followed the two hour speech given by Gettysburg's "real"speaker, Edward Everett.  Lincoln was invited, not as the keynote speaker, but as someone to simply to make a few, appropriate remarks.  The president stood before the audience, spoke ten lines, and sat down.  In the two minutes it took for him to complete his speech, a nation moved forward, united toward greatness.  

One hundred years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke before his audience.  He held his  predrafted speech and his words flowed in their regular brilliant manner. From the crowd, however, one of Dr. King's favorite gospel singers hollered, "Tell them about the dream, Martin.  Tell them about the dream."  And King acknowledged her.  In a recording of the event, you can hear Dr. King pause and you can practically picture him crumpling his typed speech.  The next words you hear are spoken from the heart.  Extemporaneously, he spoke of his vision and his dream.  Like Lincoln, Dr. King propelled the nation forward, united toward greatness.

Mr. Jones was present on the creation of the famous Dream speech and his book covers many fascinating points of that era. On a side note, it's fun to know that thanks to Mr. Jones transcribing the speech and writing the small "c" with a circle around it, he retained copyright privileges for the King family and the benefits have provided a primary source of income for their estate.

Behind the Dream  received a starred Kirkus review.

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