Martin Luther King Jr. Day

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” – MLK Jr.

January 21 2008 is Martin Luther King Jr. day and I took this opportunity to learn more about him. Here are some things that I learnt during the past week about this great man –

  1. Only 39 years old when he died (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968).
  2. He received the Nobel peace prize in 1964 (the youngest one at that time) and gave the money away to help the civil rights movement.
  3. I knew that he was a follower of Gandhiji’s non violent civil disobedience movement, but did know that he visited India in 1959 to learn more about Gandhiji’s philosophy and met the Gandhi family there.
  4. He was for reparations to the Black Americans as a way of righting historical wrongs and perhaps providing a mechanism for them to catch-up.
  5. Towards the latter part of his life King expanded the scope of his campaign to fight economic injustice and fight for the poor (not to be confused with support for communism).
  6. King eulogized himself and a sermon he gave on Feb 4 1968 was played at his funeral.
  7. The notorious J. Edgar Hoover, as his wont, tried to portray King Jr. as a communist but to not much avail.
  8. He is considered a saint by many protestant churches (this came as a real surprise to me).
  9. He was Time Magazine’s man of the year in 1964.

Every time I listen to his speech “I have a dream” it gives me goose bumps. Watching the video, I was surprised to see the folks in the back ground wearing Gandhi Caps.

I salute this great man and a true American icon.



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    Very nice post Ganesh. Dr. MLK Jr is true hero. If not for such bold leaders, segregation would not have ended so fast. Those times must be really chaotic around the world.

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    Priya Raju said January 21, 2008, 5:55 am:

    He was an amazing human being – an inspiration to everyone. And man, did he have a way with words. I just love his quotes:

    “We must learn to live together as brothers. Or perish together as fools”.

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 21, 2008, 6:36 am:

    Excellent post Ganesh. Myself and Priya just watched the youtube video a few days back and we were both in tears. I didn’t know it was on youtube until Priya pointed it out to me.

    I had posted a while back that this speech was an impromptu speech. But it looked like he was reading from his notes from the video. Did anyone else notice that or did I imagine that?

    Priya, that’s a great quote and I loved the opening quote Ganesh used as well.

    For those that think retaliatory violence is the only way against terrorism, they need to revisit MLK Jr and Mahatma Gandhi.

    Thanks again for the post Ganesh.

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    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said January 21, 2008, 8:36 pm:


    Probably most parts of his speech were impromptu and he had the notes just to guide him around salient points. That is what it looked like to me.


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    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said January 21, 2008, 10:18 pm:

    of Dr. MLK Jr. Really awesome pictures.

    Nice pictures Vamsi. There were also some great quotes associated with some of the pictures. MLK Jr. achieved a lot in a short span of 39 years. Very inspirational.


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    Saraswathi said January 22, 2008, 12:59 am:


    Very interesting post about Martin Luther King. Read a lot of posts today on him and in one of them they have mentioned that Martin Luther King did have the written text of the speech with him but he did not read the speech but referred to the text briefly in the first 11 minutes. Otherwise it was a speech totally given without any prompters.

    It is really surprising to know that he even came to India to learn about Gandhiji’s philosophy.

    As Sukumar mentioned, when my brother and I watched the video on youtube our eyes did turn moist. It was indeed a great speech!

    I know this is a weird doubt, but I was asking my brother if great speeches are “well rehearsed” before they are delivered to the audience or do they come impromptu to the speaker because he is passionate about the topic he is speaking? We couldn’t decide for sure. I know one of my friends who was a great speaker at college. The moment she would be on stage, even the most noisiest crowds would become silent and be captivated by her speech. But she would “rehearse” her speech a lot before going on the stage and once on the stage she delivered the speech with perfection without referring to any notes. Ofcourse she would always be animated and confident about the topic she was speaking about. This was just at the college level. So can leaders really speak impromptu?

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 22, 2008, 1:46 am:

    Thanks Ganesh. Vamsi, great link.

    Saraswathi, thanks for the info on the MLK speech.

    In my view, it is very hard to give impromptu speeches of the type MLK has given, universally electrifying even after decades have passed since the speech.

    The modern example of electrifying presentations is Steve Jobs – and he practices the presentation to death. You can read his techniques here

    Maybe once one becomes a pastmaster at presentations, one can give great presentations on an impromptu basis. But untill then, it is all about practice.

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    Sukumar, when it comes to speeches, Steve Jobs is the person who came to my mind. He is such a mesmarizer. But I wish his key note presentations are a little shorter. Unless one is a die-hard fan of Apple products, it is difficult to bear, in my opinion.

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    Great Post on this day. My son asked me whether MLK’s dream is true today. I said we have seen significant progress but we are still getting there, changes like these take decades or even centuries to happen but if you children take a stand then it will happen soon.

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 22, 2008, 9:01 am:

    To me Steve Jobs is the maestro, most of his performances are captivating and enthralling. I guess you could say i am a die-hard fan of Apple.

    Sujatha, great point.

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    Saraswathi said January 22, 2008, 1:15 pm:


    Thanks for the info. I now get the point. I will look up the link for sure. I have heard a lot about Steve Job’s presentation. Infact I heard his presentations have sort of become a benchmark, like when they wish luck for presentations they say do a “Steve Jobs”.

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    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said January 22, 2008, 6:58 pm:


    I agree that public speaking is a practiced art. It could be that some are naturally better at it than others. But there is hope for the rest of us like me who aim to get better with practice 🙂


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    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 22, 2008, 9:51 pm:

    Thanks Saraswathi and Ganesh. If even a Steve Jobs has to practice so much,As Ganesh says it is practice,practice, practice for the rest of us.

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    pk.karthik said January 23, 2008, 7:56 am:

    Great Post Ganesh…

    Thanks for bringing some interesting facts about Dr King to light ….i mean the speech is mindblowing…..

    Sukumar..i feel of all great speeches even one practices the speech the Charisma defintly comes impromptu..Dr King may have had prepared a speech simiar to these but final emotion and message that is conveyed can never be practiced and it comes from the bottom of the heart( unless he is great actor…but here we are talking about one greater human beings of 21 the century he cannot be actor i still feel the final speech was improptu)….

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    Great post Ganesh. I have been researching on MLK recently. I watched his speech on Youtube, although I had read the text of the speech, listening to him really brought tears to my eyes. The words that keep ringing in my ears are “I have a dream that my 4 little children will not be judged for the color of their skin but by the content of their character”
    If you notice, he advocates non-violence even that speech. He says we should combat force with the stregth of our souls not by violent means.
    In less than 50 years from that speech, look how US has changed. We are at the brink of having a black American president.

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    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 23, 2008, 10:57 am:

    Good point Karthik, no amount of practice may give you MLK’s charisma or Steve Jobs reality distortion field as they call it. But practice can get you pretty close to natural flair.

    Archana, i wish the modern day right wing ideologues who preach violence to counter violence learn about MLK and Gandhi all over again.

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    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said January 23, 2008, 11:45 am:

    Thanks Archana and Karthik.

    As much as you can practice the art of public speaking and become proficient at it, you need to have a strong conviction about the ideas you are trying to convey. Without this, one will be exposed as a sham.

    You need to have a message to convey, conviction in that message and then a strong way of expressing that message. And never underestimate the intelligence of the audience. Do not speak down at them.

    Archana – in MLK Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, I believe he reaches a crescendo during his quote – “I have a dream that my 4 little children will not be judged for the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. The quivering in his voice during that part of the speech is what gives me the goose bumps every time. It almost sounds like he is beseeching the audience and the world to pay attention to racial injustice and join in on his vision for the future.


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    Archana, Black President is too far away…But this is a closest chance. May be there could be a deal. Obama as Vice, gives him enough experience in Foreign policy which Clinton thinks that he lacks…So better luck next time.

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