As we narrow our gaze to our political condition in the lead up to a federal election, we also mark fifty years since Martin Luther King called for policy change for a better America in his “I Have a Dream” speech. US race relations and US presidential politics expert Dr Michael Ondaatje will examine King’s legacy at the Newcastle Institute Forum next week.
Who was the real Martin Luther King? What was his dream? And has it been achieved? In answering these questions, this lecture will offer an imaginative and original assessment of the man, his speech and contemporary US racial politics.
A best-selling author, award winning teacher, esteemed researcher and regular national and international media commentator, Dr Ondaatje is a Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Newcastle and a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. His 2010 book, Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America, was a Top 20 bestseller in American History. Closer to home, his writing has appeared in newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.
“Fifty years on, both dreamer and dream are widely celebrated in the United States. King is held up as a symbol of political heroism from a bygone era, and there are inevitable references to President Barack Obama and how he represents the fulfilment of his vision. Yet King’s true legacy is more complex than this. By reducing his career to a single expression, “I Have a Dream”, Americans trivialise the substance of his message and distort the meaning of his life. King might have had a dream, but he was not a dreamer,” said Dr Ondaatje.
Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was one of the greatest oratorical achievements in American history and one of the emotional high points of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King envisioned a new America where people would “not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.
The public forum will be held at 7.00pm on Wednesday 11 September, 2013 in the Hunter Room, Level 2 at Newcastle City Hall. Admission is a $5 donation and can be paid at the door. Bookings not required.