Finding a dream on Google Book Search

Friday, April 04, 2008 at 3:07 PM

By nature, I’m a loquacious person, so it should be no surprise that one of my favorite classes in college was a political science course on speakers and speeches. One of the textbooks, Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History (by one of my all-time favorite New York Times columnists, William Safire) became one of my most cherished literary discoveries.

In resolving a Trivial Pursuit dispute last week, I consulted it and came across Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. It’s a powerful piece of oration, and after reading over it again, I was inspired to visit Google Book Search to find books containing his writings.

This time, I noticed the ‘Popular passages’ section, which makes it easy to find books that cite a particular block of text – such as speech by Martin Luther King Jr., for example. You'll find this feature to the right of book content on Google Book Search, as in the image below:

As you might expect, portions of this speech have been reprinted in quite a few places. My favorite discovery, though, was to find that the “I have a dream” speech found its way into an SAT prep book.

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech in August of 1963. Less than five years later – and 40 years ago today – his voice was silenced. While we celebrate his life and memory each year on the anniversary of his birthday, the 40th anniversary of his death is a poignant time for reflection on the effect he’s had on America and the world.


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