Thursday, October 16, 2008

Behind the scenes at "I have a dream"

From the New York Times obituary of John R. Reilly, a close adviser to a string of Democratic presidential candidates since the Kennedy years:
On Aug. 28, 1963, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech before 250,000 civil rights supporters in Washington, Mr. Reilly was given an unusual assignment by the Kennedy administration.

As the television correspondent Roger Mudd wrote in his book “The Place to Be: Washington, CBS and the Glory Days of Television News” (PublicAffairs), Mr. Reilly told him that “he was stationed at the Lincoln Memorial, equipped with a cutoff switch on the sound system if the rhetoric got too inflammatory. ‘We had a turntable hooked up to play music, if necessary,’ Reilly said.” Mr. Reilly had picked a 78-r.p.m. recording of Mahalia Jackson singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

Imagine if he had hit that switch. . . "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty he's got the whole world in his hands!"

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