An engraving at the Lincoln Memorial marks the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his 1963 'I Have a Dream' speech August 22, 2003 in Washington, DC. Martin Luther King III will lead a march August 23 at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the historic speech. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

DETROIT FREE PRESS – “He’s damn good,” John F. Kennedy said about the Georgia minister.

It was 1963, and all three networks just finished a special cut-in, normally done only with presidents, for the “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a civil rights leader, but became a religious leader for the entire nation. My father became a minister with King in mind.

King prepared for four days leading up to Aug. 28, 1963. It was 16 minutes and 11 seconds. 1,409 words. The muggy Washington, D.C., afternoon — with a high of 83 degrees — probably convinced the always-dapper Dr. King not to wear his favorite black three-piece suit. The more than 200,000 onlookers at the Lincoln Memorial didn’t notice. It was the minister’s off-script words that stood tall.

King later remarked: “All of a sudden this thing came out of me that I have used — I’d used it many times before, that thing about ‘I have a dream’ — and I just felt that I wanted to use it here. I don’t know why, I hadn’t thought about it before the speech.”

King’s spontaneous “Dream” jolted the crowd. Just as it did to a young Grace Lee Boggs at an earlier rendition of “I Have a Dream.” Some of King’s 6 million miles of travel took him to a Detroit rally that Boggs helped organize. King’s message propelled the young Asian-American woman, now a 98-year old icon of the fight for African-American equality.

Five years later, King was murdered.

That’s when the forgotten “Dream” speech reached its current perch atop all of the speeches he gave in his 39 years. In the speech, “we” was the word repeated most: 30 times. We, meaning “all of us.” We, meaning Grace Lee Boggs and my father. We, meaning an entire generation.

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