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Monday, January 21, 2008

I Have a Dream

I'm not sure if I've told this story before, so I'll tell it again.

When I was in high school, I was on the speech team. Usually, I did "duet acting", where a friend of mine and I would act out a scene from some work we'd usually never really heard of ("To Burn a Witch" was my favorite, although "Who's on First" was the "most famous"). Occasionally, I was asked to compete in the poetry reading competition, and I'd recite the last portion of Stephen Vincent Benet's Army of Northern Virginia where he talks about Traveller, the horse, and his master. And once, I was asked to recite a speech.

I was supposed to choose a speech given by a famous person, and then recite the speech for the judges. My coach gave me books of speeches and told me that I could also go to the library to search out a speech. I contemplated a few that Ronald Reagan had given early in his presidency, but I couldn't edit them down to the alloted time without losing the power I read in his words. I probably read dozens of speeches, and I narrowed it down to two- "I Have a Dream" by Martin Luther King, Jr., and another speech I don't even remember now (I think it was by some big wig at Apple concerning future technology, but it was my second choice and, although it was a good speech, it wasn't "I Have a Dream.")

I went to my speech coach and told her I'd chosen my speech. When I gave her the title, she looked very uncomfortable. She informed me that I couldn't do that speech. It was appropriate, you see... because I'm not black.

Huh? I must not have heard her correctly. I mean... isn't that the whole POINT of the speech? Yes, I asked her that. She said that she loves the speech, but the judges wouldn't look favorably on a white girl giving that speech- it's only given by black students.

Wow. Talk about completely missing the dream of Dr. King.

In the end, I gave the other speech. I wasn't mature enough or stubborn enough to push the issue. I still wish I had.

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