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On Martin Luther King Day, remembering the first draft of 'I Have a Dream'
And the words "I have a dream" were nowhere in it.
About an hour later, I took my writing back to the lobby and began presenting it to the group. Immediately the others interrupted:
"What about - "
"Why didn't you - "
"I thought we agreed - "
They were all over me. And given the fact that several were Baptist preachers, there was no small amount of grandstanding. I began defending myself, but Martin intervened. "Okay, brothers," he said, "thank you so much everybody for your suggestions and input. . . . I am now going upstairs to my room to counsel with my Lord."
He walked quietly toward the elevators, leaving the rest of us to look at each other. "Tomorrow, then," someone said, and we dispersed.
Tomorrow, as history would record, turned out to be an enormous success. The weather and the massive crowd were in sync - both calm and warm for the March on Washington. Even the D.C. Metropolitan Police, which had been bracing for a race riot, had nothing to complain about.
I remember when it was all over but the final act. As I stood some 50 feet behind the lectern, march Chairman A. Philip Randolph introduced Martin, to wild applause, as "the moral leader of our nation." And I still didn't know how Martin had pulled the speech together after our meeting.
After Martin greeted the people assembled, he began his speech, and I was shocked when these words quickly rolled out:
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check.