clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

4 epic speeches from Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King speaks in Atlanta in 1960. (AP Photo)
Martin Luther King speaks in Atlanta in 1960. (AP Photo)
Herb Scribner, AP

Many people across the country will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, honoring the pastor and civil rights leader who inspired hope across the country.

From his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to the "I Have a Dream” speech, the Rev. King’s often spoke with a mastery that made people remember his words.

Richard Lischer, a professor of preaching at Duke Divinity School, told the Deseret News in 2013 that it was the tools the Rev. King employed and honed as a pastor in the 1950s that gave his famous speeches and writings lasting impact.

"It's poetry, which is heightened speech, and heightened speech is filled with metaphor and reaches down deeper into the human heart than prosaic speech," Lischer said. "It's not enough on an occasion like that to just state the truth. You have to sing the truth to reach people."

Here’s a look at King’s top four speeches.

'I have a dream' (August 1963)

The Rev. King’s most famous speech came from the Lincoln Memorial at the culmination of the massive March on Washington. He outlined his vision for racial equality in a speech that has transcended decades of history.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (1964)

At age 35, the Rev. King won the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance against racial prejudice in the U.S. The Georgia-born minister was, at the time, the youngest to receive the award, according to (Malala Yousafzai, at age 17, is the youngest to win the award now). King accepted the award Dec. 10, 1964.

"I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners — all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty — and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold."

'Our God is Marching On' (March 1965)

The Rev. King spoke to a crowd of 25,000 people who marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to support the right for black people to vote, according to He delivered this speech at the end of the march.

"We are on the move now," he said. "Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom."

His last speech (April 1968)

The Rev. King’s final speech came April 3, 1968, speaking a day before his assassination.

"I've looked over and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."