Body language can be most instructive and revealing.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorable speech, delivered nearly 50 years ago on the Washington, D.C. Mall, offers a prime example of how body language can put words into context.
King delivered his famed “I Have a Dream” speech that day before roughly a quarter-million people sprawled out in front of a podium on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As he began his speech, you can see him reading the text from sheets of paper.
About two-thirds of the way through his remarks, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson — who was standing nearby on the podium — reportedly told Dr. King to “tell them about the dream, Martin.”
Oh brother, did he ever. Dr. King looked up from his notes and launched into what might be considered the most inspiring segment of extemporaneous speechmaking in U.S. history.
The words he thundered from that platform have been inscribed into immortality.
PBS is going to honor that speech and, indeed, the civil rights movement in a few days with a series of programs to be shown on KACV-TV. On Sunday, Aug. 27, beginning at 7 p.m., “In Performance at the White House” will honor the music of the civil rights movement; at 8 p.m., “The March” explores a watershed moment in the civil rights movement, which is the March on Washington culminating in Dr. King’s stirring rhetoric; at 9 p.m., PBS will rebroadcast a special, “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights,” on the life and times of the controversial leader of the National Urban League.
Take a good look at the speech and wait for the moment. You’ll know it when it arrives. When you see it, you’ll understand the power of belief in one’s message. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the cause he carried forward.