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Safeguarding the Dream January 16, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Information, Online Tools.
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mlk   Several years ago I was invited to create an online Webliography for the teachers of a Tucson area school district. The teachers of Tanque Verde wanted to have a ready repository of web sites they had used with success and wanted to review them for other teachers. When our server was down last week I heard from their director of technology. It seems the Tanque Verde Webliography is still being used.

During the discussions with teachers, one of the standards of efficiency they raised on more than one occasion was that they wanted to have access to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. They frequently referred to the text in their classes at different times of the year and for a variety of purposes across grade levels. When asked if there were other great speeches they wanted to access, they usually just left it at King’s speech. Access to these most stirring and visionary of speeches might not be as easy a matter as teachers once thought.

According to the Washington Post, King received the rights to his speech a month after giving it and the family now has only granted rights to certain sanctioned copies. Consisting of fewer than 1,600 words, the speech is readily available online and available to be read, but this is a speech whose rhythms and inflections give it even greater power. It is one of the few true multimedia treasures that teachers can bring into their classrooms.

You can hear and see about thirty seconds of the speech on the History Channel’s web site but you will have to hear it with patriotic music in the background and interruptions from a narrator. My colleagues at Education Wonks believe it is time to have audio and video of the speech moved into the public domain alongside other great addresses of the last two hundred years. In time the speech will be in the public domain, that’s how public domain works. However, with technology available to enabling the manipulation of audio into everything from rap songs to commercials, perhaps we could afford to protect this speech in its entirety for a while longer. 


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