Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"I have a dream" and A Course in Miracles

Wednesday, August 28, 2013, marks the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s masterful oration, “I have a dream.” In an article in USA TODAY, Rick Hampson clearly demonstrates how King, after reading from his prepared text for ten minutes, stepped aside from his text, totally inspired.

This is one of my favorite themes:  Stepping back allows the Holy Spirit to come through us.  This inspiration is clearly expressed in A Course in Miracles, Lesson 155, I will step back and let Him lead the way.

Step back in faith and let truth lead the way.
You know not where you go. But One Who knows
goes with you. Let Him lead you with the rest.

Here is Rick Hampson’s account:  

 King had worked on his speech over the previous four days, finally finishing a few hours before dawn in his suite at the Willard Hotel.

When he was more than halfway through a recitation that had been well received but was, as King biographer Taylor Branch would write, "Far from historic" and in places "clubfooted."

Then, King looked up. He put aside his text, and in Taylor Branch’s words, “He took flight extemporaneously.”

"I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. It is a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

Some on the platform noticed that he was disregarding his prepared text, including Clarence Jones, a King adviser who had worked on the speech. "He's off. He's on his own now. He's inspired," Jones told Taylor Branch in 2002, four decades later.

Mahalia Jackson, who had performed earlier and was one of King's favorite gospel singers, cried, "Tell 'em about the dream, Martin!"

Having raised his eyes, he now had to raise his voice to be heard over the growing applause. He continued to profess his dream, repeating the refrain seven more times, moving from justice and equality to something deeper - a human bond transcending race.

To his wife, Coretta, it seemed King had forgotten time itself, that his words flowed "from some higher place."

He ended suddenly, returning to the speech that had been lying unread on the lectern for the last line: "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty - we are free at last!"
For a moment the audience was stunned. Silence. Then, a rocking ovation.

At the White House, President Kennedy - who with King would produce much of 20th-century America's memorable oratory - turned to an aide: "He's damn good."

King created a masterpiece on the fly, "like some sort of jazz musician," said David J. Garrow, whose King biography, Bearing the Cross, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. "It's the spontaneous parts of the speech that people remember."

Why did King decide to insert the "dream" section? He never really explained, and no one pressed him. When he spoke with Donald Smith, a graduate student, later that year, he didn't seem sure himself:

"I started out reading the speech, and I read it down to a point, and just all of a sudden  this thing came to me that I'd used many times before, that thing about 'I have a dream.' I just felt I wanted to use it. I don't know why. I hadn't thought about it before that speech."

After the march ended peacefully - not a single marcher was arrested - Kennedy met the leaders of the march at the White House.

When he walked into the Cabinet Room, the president looked at King and grinned. "I have a dream," he said. (Rick Hampson, “What you didn’t know about King’s ‘Dream’ speech,” USATODAY, August 13, 2013, Section A, pp.1,2)

“Then, King looked up. He put aside his text. . .”
I will step back and let Him lead the way.