The third Monday in January is celebrated as Dr. Martin Luther King Day. This year the celebration falls on his actual birthday, January 15. Had the Civil Rights activist lived, he would be celebrating his own birthday at age 89. When people think about King and all he accomplished in his short life of only 39 years, one thing most people know about is his famous "I Have a Dream Speech." Even though they have heard it many times since King's death on April 4, 1968, there are so many interesting things people don't know about the speech.

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Over the years, people have quoted parts of it in their own speeches. School children and adults have used all or some of it to illustrate the dream they have for America.

A fifth-grade Texas girl paid tribute to Dr. King by comparing her dream to his dream in a speech she gave this weekend. Tchanori Kone won first place at the 22nd Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition. The audience paid special attention because they were familiar with the speech delivered by King himself.

The speech

It doesn't diminish the speech by knowing that it was not original. Surely, Martin Luther King is the author of it, but before he delivered it on August 28, 1963, parts of it were in a speech he delivered a couple of months before in Detroit, Michigan in June. Even though King appeared and sounded much older at the time, he was only 34 years old when he delivered it from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington which goes down in history books as the largest march of the Civil Rights Movement.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 people heard the speech that day in person and millions viewed it live on television. Over the years, almost every American has heard something about the speech, if it is only the title.

Interesting characteristics

The speech might seem long with its resounding phrases, but it is only 19-minutes long. It was ranked the top speech of the 20th century. Dr. King became the youngest recipient and the second African American winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for that famous speech.

One can't help from recognizing many well-known references including some from the Bible, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and even from William Shakespeare. Toward the end, the Baptist minister began ad-libbing when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted, “Tell 'em about the dream, Martin.” Then he began telling them about his dream for the country. He used the repetitious phrase “I have a dream” even though those words were not part of his prepared speech.

It is very interesting to know that a few hours before the speech was delivered King didn't know what he was going to say. Today, the speech is talked about as part of the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.