Shaping a Speech, 50 Years After ‘I Have a Dream'

08/22/2013 08:50 am ET
  • NYTIMES
AP

Talk about pressure.

On Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. capped the March on Washington with his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Next week, President Obama will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington with a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, willingly putting himself in the very place where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of America’s greatest oratories five decades ago.

The split-screen comparisons are as inevitable as they are unwanted. A gifted orator himself, Mr. Obama nonetheless faces an unenviable task: to offer Americans a stirring, resonant moment that goes beyond his sometimes professorial remarks, without falling into a politically dangerous mimicry of Dr. King’s cadences and rhythms.

But the challenge has become something of a self-created one for Mr. Obama during his presidency.

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