“I have a dream” almost didn’t happen

It’s Wednesday, August 23, 1963, and you are gathered with 250,000 others for a March on Washington. Now you find yourself gathered at the National Mall, facing the Lincoln Memorial and Dr. Martin Luther King takes the podium.

In the previous days, Dr. King and his speech writer, Clarence Jones, worked on a number of talking points for Dr. King to use on that day. A version of a speech was given to the event organizers beforehand and with that script and the notes prepared, Dr. King stepped forward.

For the first eight minutes or so, he spoke of liberty, equality and justice. But his words were not having the impact they deserved. That is until a close friend and favorite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson shouted out

“Martin. Tell them about the dream.”

Some have said several of Dr. Kings advisors rolled their eyes and thought, “Oh no. Not the dream speech.”

You see Dr. King had shared his dream on several occasions before. Eight months earlier he spoke to an audience at a high school gym in Rocky Point, NC. And on other occasions it’s been told he exercised some of the same phrases that would eventually ignite this nation.

But it almost didn’t happen.

Clarence Jackson recounted that when Mahalia shouted for Dr. King to share his dream, he glanced over her way, gathered the prepared notes and papers that were on the lectern, pushed them off to one side and then grabbed both sides of the lectern. At that moment Clarence remembers telling the person next to him,

“These people out there, they don’t know it, but they are about ready to go to church.”

And we did.

Consider today, what is your dream? How many times have you shared it and it just didn’t hit home? I would encourage you to keep sharing it and improving on your message. Maybe the next time will be that moment when it lands perfectly, starts taking shape and changes lives.

Like Mahalia, allow me to encourage you,

“Tell them about the dream.”

© 2022 Louis Richardson


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