BELDING— The immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream …” live on today as part of the famous speech he delivered during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
What may come as a surprise to some, however, is the fact that King didn’t utter those words until the speech was coming to a close.
Greg Adamus, a retired administrator for Alpena Public Schools who recently moved to Ionia, said most of King’s 15-minute speech is unknown to the majority of Americans despite the fact that many people are familiar with the “I have a dream …” portion of the speech.
Adamus hopes to change that with a presentation he’ll give at 7 p.m. Monday at First Congregational Church of Belding, 301 W. Washington St.
“My talk is going to center on the rhetoric and the grammar and the syntax and the use of metaphor and simile. I’m going to approach it like an English teacher would dissect an essay,” he said. “I’m going to try to take it apart as a piece of literature. Every speech is written before it’s spoken.”
The presentation will also touch on what Adamus calls the “three big legs of (King’s) legacy: Human rights, voting rights and world peace.”
“I’m going to show the oratorical devices Martin Luther King Jr. used to make the speech understandable to all Americans,” he said. “He knew it was going to be televised … He knew he was talking to all America.”
According to Adamus, the last few minutes of the speech King gave were extemporaneous and unplanned, which included the now famous words, “I have a dream …”
“We’re going to watch the speech and you’re going to see him stop reading,” he said. “It’s pretty dramatic.”
Adamus said he believes America is at a crossroads, much like 1963 when King gave the speech, and that people can benefit from hearing the speech today.
“I think anybody concerned about the historic crossroads we are at right now politically and even in our world role … anybody worried about that is actually, I think, going to feel some comfort and some reassurance and some hope if they come listen to the full speech,” he said. “I know that people are full of anxiety about what’s going to happen next with American politics.”
Adamus has given similar presentations in the past when he was living in Alpena and served on committees to honor MLK Day. He said that his goal is to bring awareness of the whole speech to more people which he hopes will breed understanding of others and a renewed focus on the issues King was passionate about in life.
“MLK Day could not have come at a better time,” he said. “This might not be the first time MLK Day and an inauguration come within five days of each other … but this MLK Day is unique because we’re making this transition into the unknown.”
First Congregational Church of Belding Pastor Paul Hulford said he’s happy to host Adamus’ presentation.
“I think his whole idea is to spark conversations that should be happening now and that might not be happening as often,” Hulford said. “Being able to provide a place for those conversations to happen and listening to an impassioned speech and hearing a lecture about how he did help change, to a degree, the world and American society and how we can continue living that.”
Hulford said in the past, Adamus had gotten students involved in the conversation and engaged in learning about the message King was trying to impart in his speech by also holding an essay competition, which is something Hulford hopes students in the Belding and Ionia might do in the future as well.