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Old 04-20-2012, 02:07 PM
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Non-USers: how familiar are you with this speech?


I'm not gonna name the speech in the thread title because of the bias it introduces (only people who know the speech would open the thread), but there's a pretty good chance that a lot of you will guess what speech I'm going to name anyway.

It's probably the most famous speech in American history. There's only one other speech that I'd consider in the running.

The speech I'm talking about, of course, is Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Every schoolchild learns about the speech in their primary years, and it gets quoted all the time here. But it occurred to me recently that maybe it's famous here the way Admiral Nelson is famous in the UK--that is, everyone in the country knows of it, but outside of the country, knowledge of it is more limited to history nerds.

So what about it, folks? Are you familiar with the speech, and if so, how familiar, and when did you learn about it?
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Old 04-20-2012, 02:13 PM
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I had an American History class in high school where it was covered. But I knew about it beforehand from references in TV and movies.

I was wondering if you were thinking of that speech or the Gettysburg Address, which in case you're curious would have had the same answer for me. American culture gets exported quite a bit.
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Old 04-20-2012, 02:21 PM
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I am currently teaching Italian teenagers of about 14. They are learning about this speech this year and it is in the national English exam. They don't have to memorise it, but they certainly have to know its significance.

Last edited by PookahMacPhellimey; 04-20-2012 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 04-20-2012, 02:27 PM
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Every schoolchild learns about the speech in their primary years
FWIW, I attended majority African-American schools for elementary, middle, and high schools, and I never "learned about" it once. As it happens, I was honored* to recite parts of it** at a special event***, and wound up having most of it memorized at one time, but your above statement definitely does not hold true for this former schoolchild.







* It took a lot of balls for Mrs. Weston to give the King part to a white kid.

** About half the total length, IIRC, basically just an abbreviated version.

*** I give myself credit for not to try to do it as an impersonation. That might have caused a riot.
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Old 04-20-2012, 02:28 PM
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I'm American, so rather than answer the post I'm going to suggest you start a "most famous speech in American history" question (poll would be too close-ended). Before you revealed it, I was thinking Gettysburg (or Lincoln's Second, but that might actually be unfortunately obscure) or the Kennedy space speech. Not that IhaD isn't among the top few... wonder what else is there?
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Old 04-20-2012, 03:27 PM
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Non-USers
The term "USers" brings back memories of an obnoxious and banned poster.

Better to simply call them "Un-Americans".
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Old 04-20-2012, 03:28 PM
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Certainly couldn't recite it. Seen the rather grainy black-and-white TV recording of it a number of times. I, too, thought the Gettysburg Address would be the one.
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Old 04-20-2012, 03:57 PM
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From the beginning


I heard the speech when he gave it and at least annually since. It's inspirational on many levels.
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Old 04-20-2012, 04:00 PM
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I'm Canadian. I'm familiar with bits and pieces of it, but I couldn't recite the whole thing by heart or anything. Same with the Gettysburg Address, though.
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Old 04-20-2012, 04:01 PM
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It was never covered in school, so I guess I just learnt about it through media. Grew up in New Zealand.
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Old 04-20-2012, 04:07 PM
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As an American, I'd have pegged the Gettysburg Address as more famous. It's the one I had to memorize in sixth grade. "I Have a Dream" I didn't learn about until high school, and never heard it in its entirety until many years later.
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Old 04-20-2012, 04:14 PM
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I don't know much of the speech beyond he had a dream or something. I think.
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Old 04-20-2012, 04:23 PM
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I'm British. State school educated. I know that Martin Luther King was a black American who was big in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He delivered a famous speech, which started with "I have a dream". Something about white kids and black kids living together. I have no idea how the rest of the speech went. I remember being confused when I first read about Martin Luther, the clergyman, so I surmise that I learned about King first.

He was shot dead by somebody who wasn't famous, and there wasn't a major conspiracy about it. There is a public holiday in the US named after him.

That's about the extent of my knowledge of Martin Luther King. Probably slightly more than most British people younger than me, less than people who were alive when he was alive. Chubby, friendly-looking face. Probably not a saint in real life, but he's not a real person any more, he's an icon. I understand that, on a political level, he's more or less untouchable, e.g. you're on a hiding to nothing if you try and dig dirt about his private life.

Also, he was (a) betrayed by a kiss (b) washed on an empty beach (c) most definitely shot early in the morning despite what the history books say and (d) they couldn't take his pride.

It's worth pointing out that I don't know much more about Admiral Nelson, and I suspect I'm not alone. Admiral, first name Horatio, one of ours, beat the French, 1800s? Something about fire ships. Shot by sniper, died saying either "kismet, Hardy", or "kiss me, Hardy". Pleasured his mistress twice in his top boots.

No, sorry. That was the Duke of Marlborough. But Nelson had an eye for the ladies, oh yes:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ge..._Straw_Hat.jpg

Rare example of an oil portrait from long ago that doesn't make the woman look like a fat over-made-up cream puff, there.

Last edited by Ashley Pomeroy; 04-20-2012 at 04:24 PM.
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Old 04-20-2012, 04:24 PM
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I'm familiar with bits and pieces of it, but I couldn't recite the whole thing by heart or anything. Same with the Gettysburg Address, though.
Same for me, and I grew up in the UK, NZ and Germany. Spent a year in the US at 11, but pretty sure we didn't cover it in school that year (8th grade).
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Old 04-20-2012, 09:44 PM
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The responses are about what I thought, except that I'm surprised at the number of Americans (sorry about USers, I didn't want Canadian pedants getting all snippy, can't win for losing sometimes) who think the Gettysburg Address is more famous. That was definitely the only other speech that might be in the running, but I figure that although plenty of people know "four score and seven years ago," a lot more school kids know significant lines from "I have a dream," and more importantly know why exactly it was given and know its central thesis.

I don't think Kennedy's space speech would be in the running. His inaugural line about "ask not" might be, but not the whole speech. Other than Gettysburg and I Have a Dream, I can't think of anything else that comes close.

This may be a feature of my current position in the school system, however; it's interesting to think of how it was taught previously, or even how it's taught in other classrooms and systems today. Folks with elementary-aged kids, do you know how familiar your own kids are with IHAD vs. Gettysburg?
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Old 04-20-2012, 10:02 PM
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As far as rhetoric goes, the only speeches I had to memorize in my american parochial schooling were the Gettysburg address and the preamble to the constitution. (Ok, maybe I'm being a little loose with the definition of speech here.) "I Have A Dream"? Sure, I knew about it and I bet we watched clips of it at various points in social studies classes but I don't remember any specific lines beyond the first 4 words. I was in grade school in the 90s and 00s.
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Old 04-20-2012, 10:41 PM
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Another American who thinks that the Gettysburg Address is the most famous speech in American history, that and Columbus' we'll trade you smallpox for all of this continent speech.

Last edited by madmonk28; 04-20-2012 at 10:42 PM.
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Old 04-21-2012, 01:42 AM
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So I'm going to really shame myself here, but though I know 'of' the Gettysburg address, I couldn't recite one word of it to you.

Though it 'may' be covered in school depending on which bit of history you study, I doubt many Brits would rank it higher in fame than 'I have a dream', which wasn't covered in school but is much more likely to pop up on TV.
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:08 AM
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Australian here; I get the reference to MLK if someone uses the "I have a dream" quote but I couldn't tell you any more about the speech than that.

I do know considerably more about Nelson, but that's because I'm a history buff and I'm particularly interested in the Napoleonic era. I could also tell you more about Lincoln and the Gettysberg address than most Australians because I'm a history buff and I'm mildly interested in the American Civil War.

I'd say most Australians would have heard of MLK and would get the "I have a dream" quote (because the US does relentlessly export its culture, even the bits that are completely irrelevant to everywhere else) but very few could tell you more about it than that.
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:14 AM
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It was never covered in school, so I guess I just learnt about it through media. Grew up in New Zealand.
Same here. I know about it, know the grainy images, know the " I have a dream" line and that is about it. I have watched the entirity of some of Obama's speeches, though. I was deeply moved by his speech on racism.
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:18 AM
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So I'm going to really shame myself here, but though I know 'of' the Gettysburg address, I couldn't recite one word of it to you.
If you're interested, it's a very short speech.
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Old 04-21-2012, 03:30 AM
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It's probably the most famous speech in American history.
Know it, no. I've never heard nor read it in full. But that line (which can be seen on preview) made me think "what, 'I have a dream'? It's either that one or the Gettysburg address... I'll be real surprised if it's 'am I not a woman?', specially since it's a guy..." The last one I do have read.

It's a sort of cultural collocation: if an American says "speech", next he says "I have a dream". Yes, we know Pastor King did, and its gist (an end to racial segregation). What many of us don't know it's the details, because the people who mention the speech assume that their audience knows it, and we can't be bothered.

Last edited by Nava; 04-21-2012 at 03:32 AM.
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Old 04-21-2012, 03:35 AM
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I have no idea when I first heard about the speech, but it was most likely when he was still alive or in the years immediately after. The only thing I remember about it, is that the words that have given the speech its name, occur several times.
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Old 04-21-2012, 03:55 AM
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Know it, no. I've never heard nor read it in full. But that line (which can be seen on preview) made me think "what, 'I have a dream'? It's either that one or the Gettysburg address... I'll be real surprised if it's 'am I not a woman?', specially since it's a guy..."
I'm pretty sure you're talking about "Ain't I a Woman?" by Sojourner Truth, and, yes, that is how it's always referred to. It also isn't nearly as famous, among men or women, in America.

Last edited by Derleth; 04-21-2012 at 03:55 AM.
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Old 04-21-2012, 03:59 AM
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Australian here; I get the reference to MLK if someone uses the "I have a dream" quote but I couldn't tell you any more about the speech than that.

I'd say most Australians would have heard of MLK and would get the "I have a dream" quote (because the US does relentlessly export its culture, even the bits that are completely irrelevant to everywhere else) but very few could tell you more about it than that.
I'm dittoing Shakester.
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Old 04-21-2012, 04:25 AM
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Right, I don't know it. Maybe snippets, but we don't cover the US Civil War in school, where the focus is British and European history, and we aren't exposed to many history programmes on TV that cover the civil war either. So I feel fairly safe in saying Brits would know the MLK speech (or at least a snippet of it) far ahead of the Gettysburg address.
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Old 04-21-2012, 04:27 AM
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... I'll be real surprised if it's 'am I not a woman?', specially since it's a guy..."
When you posted that, my mind went immediately to Elizabeth I's famous speech:

Quote:
...I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too...
...which just goes to show my British bias.
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Old 04-21-2012, 04:42 AM
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FWIW, I work in an international office, so I just did a poll in my office on which is the most famous American speech:

Iranian born American (30s): MLK, I have a dream speech
Irishman (30s): Gettysburg
Frenchman (40): JFK, "Ask not...."
Englishman (50s): JFK Berliner Speech
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Old 04-21-2012, 05:24 AM
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"The only thing we have to fear...."
"December 7th, 1941......"
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Old 04-21-2012, 05:50 AM
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When I was at school in Australia we studied very little US history or about the US at all. I think the Revolution and the Civil War received cursory coverage but most of what I knew about the US I got from my own reading. I knew of the speech but it was too contemporaneous to be studied in school. I graduated only 7 years later.
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Old 04-21-2012, 05:57 AM
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I am aware of it. I have heard and seen parts of it. What it means to a lot of people is arguably lost on me. I do like how considerable amounts of it have, as far as I can tell, come to pass since.
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Old 04-21-2012, 06:54 AM
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So what about it, folks? Are you familiar with the speech, and if so, how familiar, and when did you learn about it?
I have a dream? Lennon did it better with Imagine.

But the most famous American speech? IHAD isn't even in the running for me. Kennedy's Berlin speech and his 'Ask not...' speech rank very high, with the nod going to the latter.
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Old 04-21-2012, 07:13 AM
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Danish and I know of the speech, but only vaguely, I couldn't tell you any other words from it than the "I have a dream" part and that it is related to civil rights. I'm sure I know of it from movies and not from my education.
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Old 04-21-2012, 07:25 AM
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I definitely know, read it in full, know the image of King associated with it. I think that's mainly because I'm interested, it's not taught in schools or anything. I would say the majority of people in Europe (all over-ish) know there is *some* significance to the words "I have a dream", but I think many would not be able to say what it's associated with, let alone name King, a time period or other parts of the speech. It's just parodied very often on tv, or quoted in passing. It's hard to escape the words "I have a dream" (they come with pop culture), but not so hard to escape the meaning of those words.

I know the Gettysburg Address too (again, because I'm interested) but I think far less Europeans will have heard of it. They might have heard the "four score and seven years ago" part, again as a pop culture reference. I doubt most people would know its significance.
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Old 04-21-2012, 07:40 AM
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It's worth pointing out that I don't know much more about Admiral Nelson, and I suspect I'm not alone. Admiral, first name Horatio, one of ours, beat the French, 1800s? Something about fire ships.
Drake?
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Old 04-21-2012, 08:20 AM
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The "I have a Dream" speech was not taught in my school in Nevada in the 80s.
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Old 04-21-2012, 11:16 AM
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I'd say most Australians would have heard of MLK and would get the "I have a dream" quote (because the US does relentlessly export its culture, even the bits that are completely irrelevant to everywhere else) but very few could tell you more about it than that.
Yeah, that.

However, you have inspired me to read it again. It really is a great speech
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Old 04-21-2012, 11:21 AM
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I think the majority of Americans know the MLK speech starts with "I have a dream" and the Gettysburg Address starts with "Four score and seven years ago". I doubt many could recite the rest. But the common knowledge of the speeches, minimally or in detail, has little to do with their importance.

ETA: I'm a USer

Last edited by TriPolar; 04-21-2012 at 11:22 AM.
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Old 04-21-2012, 11:29 AM
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I am very familiar with the speech and I don't live in the US. I had to do an essay about MLK in highschool and that's how I know it.
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Old 04-21-2012, 11:33 AM
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This may be a feature of my current position in the school system, however; it's interesting to think of how it was taught previously, or even how it's taught in other classrooms and systems today. Folks with elementary-aged kids, do you know how familiar your own kids are with IHAD vs. Gettysburg?
I had to recite The Gettysburg Address (from memory) in second or third grade, can't quite recall which. This would have been in the middle '80s. Because our Social Studies classes were either Ancient History (Mesopotamia, Greek, Roman, Egypt) or "American" History, starting back at the pilgrims every year, we never had time to get past the Carpetbaggers. But of course I absorbed knowledge of "I Have a Dream" through cultural osmosis and media clips.

Just checked with my kids: the first grader doesn't know either one yet. The college age kid had to memorize and recite "Gettysburg" sometime around fourth or fifth grade, he thinks, and got "I Had A Dream" every February, but as part of school wide Black History Month activities, not Social Studies.
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Old 04-21-2012, 11:43 AM
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I think the majority of Americans know the MLK speech starts with "I have a dream"
They would be incorrect. The phrase "I have a dream" first appears about halfway into the speech.
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Old 04-21-2012, 12:29 PM
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I have a dream? Lennon did it better with Imagine
What? No. Just no.
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Old 04-21-2012, 12:47 PM
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I think the majority of Americans know the MLK speech starts with "I have a dream"...
It doesn't. It starts with:

Quote:
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
Note the echoing of the GA's rhetorical device of year counting.
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Old 04-21-2012, 01:25 PM
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They would be incorrect. The phrase "I have a dream" first appears about halfway into the speech.
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It doesn't. It starts with:
Yes, just carelessness on my part, but it does reflect what most Americans know about the speech. I was trying to convey that it isn't much, just the catch phrases.
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Old 04-21-2012, 01:31 PM
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And if you think about it, the speech is much, much more effective with "I Have a Dream" embedded in it rather than at the very beginning. Get the crowd worked up a bit first, then delivery the rhetorical flourish.
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Old 04-21-2012, 01:36 PM
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King was an exceptional orator as well. We can only guess at what Lincoln sounded like giving his speeches, but I would assume he had developed great skill as a public speaker early in his career.
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Old 04-21-2012, 01:58 PM
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King was an exceptional orator as well. We can only guess at what Lincoln sounded like giving his speeches, but I would assume he had developed great skill as a public speaker early in his career.
From what little I know, he was supposed to be great at off-the-cuff lawyering.

And yeah, I think King's amazing oratory abilities contribute to the speech's fame. But I'd suggest that there's a little more that most Americans know about the speech: lines about black children and white people getting along, lines about "Let freedom ring", maybe even a line or two about promissory notes not honored (but probably not the latter).

As for suggestions that JFK's Berlin speech might be more famous, that's amazing to me. Really?
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:05 PM
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As for suggestions that JFK's Berlin speech might be more famous, that's amazing to me. Really?
I think it was something important at the time. But it was surpassed by more dramatic events in history, like the death of the guy who gave the speech.
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:13 PM
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22-year old American here. If you'd asked me I'd have said MLK's "I have a dream" is far more famous a speech than either the GA or JFK's Berlin speech.
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:42 PM
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From what little I know, he was supposed to be great at off-the-cuff lawyering.

And yeah, I think King's amazing oratory abilities contribute to the speech's fame. But I'd suggest that there's a little more that most Americans know about the speech: lines about black children and white people getting along, lines about "Let freedom ring", maybe even a line or two about promissory notes not honored (but probably not the latter).
I think quite a few would know about the "color of their skin/content of their character" thingy.
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