Friday, January 11, 2008

I Have a Dream

By Lisa Curry

Back in the mid- to late ’80s, I watched President Ronald Reagan deliver a speech on TV. I don’t remember what he talked about, but I do remember that whatever he said moved me to tears.

I was blown away. All I could think, as I sniffled and wiped my eyes, was that if he could make me – a Democrat who didn’t vote for him and couldn’t stand him – all weepy, he must have one hell of speechwriter. And what a fine thing it would be to write words as powerful as that – words that could motivate, inspire, and move the unwilling to tears.

So for a time, I toyed with the idea that I might someday move to Washington DC and become a political speechwriter. The closest I ever came was writing a few speeches and a campaign brochure for my uncle when he ran for commissioner of Butler County, PA. (He was elected, so I guess I didn’t do too dreadful a job.)

Instead, I stayed in Pittsburgh and became a catalog/marketing copywriter, which isn’t all that different, really. My goal is to write powerful words that motivate, inspire, and move the unwilling to purchase my client’s latest widget.

I hadn’t thought about my one-time aspiration to be a speechwriter in years. Maybe that’s because I haven’t heard a really moving speech in years. (Sometimes our current president makes me want to cry, too, but not for that reason.)

But then I got drafted into producing the monthly PTA newsletter for my kids’ elementary school. Like most other newsletter editors, I suspect, I’m chronically lacking enough submitted material to fill an issue and forced to write my own content in addition to editing and publishing the darn thing. I decided this month’s issue really ought to include something on Martin Luther King Jr. in honor of MLK Day, which will be observed January 21.

In researching Dr. King, I discovered that you can see and hear him give his “I Have a Dream” speech on YouTube. He made that speech on August 28, 1963, shortly before I was born, but I’m not sure more powerful words have been delivered since. And yes, it moves me to tears, no matter how many times I watch it.

So even though we’re four days early for his birthday and ten days early for his holiday observance, click here to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and the power of words today.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lisa, for reminding us that we need to have dreams and work towards them!

Joyce Tremel said...

It is a great speech, isn't it?

I wonder what he'd think of the ways things are now.

Anonymous said...


I heard Reagan give his "road" speech--the one he used to build his base nationwide--in 1975 as part of a group of young reporters covering a GOP fundraising pig-roast (I kid you not) on Maryland's Eastern Shore. (This was the same group that came to my apt. the year before to watch, and celebrate, Nixon's resignation.) We took notes, interviewed star-struck attendees, and left the function shaking our heads in a amazement that anyone would take this former actor seriously, reassurerd in our naive smugness that he'd never get into the White House. So much for political prognosticating!

Much is being made of Barack Obama's speaking skills--good article in today's P-G on that. He seems to be a worthy successor to the oratical tradition so exemplified by MLK. Thanks for the reminder.

Annette said...

I've always wondered what might have happened to the world had he lived. Such a great man and such a huge loss.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, thanks for reminding us to keep the important things in focus. Barack Obama did a similar thing in his Iowa Caucus' winners speech. I kept thinking: this guy has a great speechwriter! Jack Kennedy did, too. Ah, the power of words, in the right order.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, Reagan's speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, wrote a non-fiction book about her work at the White House, and it's interesting--especially when she writes about her speechwriting process. But the politics behind her story still give me the shudders. Great book, though, for many reasons.

When I hear a really great political speech, I often check it out to see if Noonan is still freelancing--and she often is.

I recently read Robt. Kennedy's euolgy of MLK--given off the cuff (supposedly) the night King was assasinated. Kennedy climbed up in the back of a pickup truck in a black neighborhood to break the news that MLK had been shot---and his speech is truly eloquent, even quoted his favorite Greek poet.

Here, I jut found it online:

Anonymous said...

P.S. Great blog, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Nancy, thanks for the link to the MLK eulogy by RFK. I hadn't heard that before -- it was awesome. Also, thanks for the scoop on Peggy Noonan. I will have to read her book!

Mike, funny story about Ronald Reagan in 1975. Thanks for sharing!