It wasn’t in the speech. It wasn’t in the draft. It was a riff he had used in prior speeches. In front of the Lincoln Memorial, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” And then he told them. Improvised. The stuff of legend.
It takes a community. One that is fully engaged and pushing each other forward. It takes a Dr. King, a Mahalia Jackson, and even an Abe Lincoln and the people who built the memorial for this event to take place in front of.
The conclusion of the speech was supposed to be about taking “creative dissatisfaction” back to the cities and towns of the audience members. No doubt the dissatisfaction returned with them. More importantly, for them and for our history, they returned with a vision, with a dream.
Here’s a short version of the story of the speech from NYT in 2013.
And, for good measure, some Mahalia Jackson: