The area around the mic was crowded with speakers, dignitaries and their entourages. Wearing a black suit, black tie and white shirt, Dr. King edged through the melee towards the podium. All people could see was a speck. And they listened to it.
Dr. King started slowly, and stuck close to his prepared text. As he moved towards his final words, it seemed that he could sense that he was falling short. He hadn’t locked into that power he so often found.
Then, behind him, Mahalia Jackson cried out: “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin.” Jackson had a particularly intimate emotional relationship with King. Jackson shouted again: “Tell ‘em about the dream.”
Then Dr. King grabbed the podium and set his prepared text to his left. When he was reading from his text, he stood like a lecturer. The moment he set that text aside, he took on the stance of a Baptist preacher.
Months later, Dr. King said: “I started out reading the speech, and I read it down to a point. The audience response was wonderful that day… And all of a sudden this thing came to me that… I’d used many times before… ‘I have a dream.’ And I just felt that I wanted to use it here… I used it, and at that point I just turned aside from the manuscript altogether. I didn’t come back to it.”