I am listening to poet Richard Blanco, the youngest and first openly gay poet to read at a Presidential inauguration, read a poem called “One Today” at the inauguration of President Obama for his second term. I woke up this morning not focusing on the inauguration—in fact I had forgotten today was the day—but on Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech. I thought the best blog post for today, MLK Day, would be to simply bring to our popcorn readers the full text of that famous speech, arguably one of the most important pieces of writing in the history of America. When I read it now, I am struck by how it is both a call to action and a call for restraint, but running underneath it these unmistakable admonishments to the establishment:
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
The speech also uses that classic poetic technique, repetition:
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…I have a dream today…I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together…
And when I read it alongside Richard Blanco’s poem “One Today,” I’m struck by the unity that the latter piece of writing hints at, with lines like “All of us as vital as the one light we move through.” I don’t know whether Blanco feels we have achieved that unity, but his poem is nonetheless one of hope that we might.
Here is the full text to Richard Blanco’s poem “One Today.”
Here is the full text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream.”
But like all good poems, it’s best heard when read aloud.