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Adi Roche Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Famous words

My favourite speech: Chernobyl Children International founder Adi Roche

Continuing our summer series on of public figures’ favourite speeches, Adi Roche picks the 1963 speech by Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

THE AUTHOR AND former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan once said: “A speech is poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart.”

One can not underestimate the power of a good speech or the effectiveness of a speech’s key line.

With that in mind, over the course of the summer is asking some of the most prominent figures in Irish society from politicians to sports stars to nominate their favourite speech of all time and tell us why they like it so much.

Today: Campaigner, founder and chief executive of Chernobyl Children International Adi Roche. She writes:

‘I Have a Dream’. I cannot count the number of times that I have used that wonderful, empowering and inspiring rallying call of the late and great Dr Martin Luther King in various speeches and exhortations that I have made up and down the length and breadth of Ireland and indeed abroad.

It never fails to inspire me and those to whom I have embraced with its warmth and resonance that change is possible, that right and justice can prevail, that hope never dies, that we shall ‘overcome some day’!

Joan Baez, one of my all-time heroes and singers sang that great song ‘We Shall Overcome’ at that great and historic gathering that Wednesday afternoon on 28 August, when over a quarter of a million people, mainly African-Americans, gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC in the March for Jobs and Freedom.

Not one person was arrested that day, as Dr King finally took to the podium and proclaimed to the world that immortal line ‘I have a dream’.

He repeated it many times, emphasising the urgency and inevitability of such a dream whose time had come, one of freedom, civil rights, an end to discrimination and poverty, an opportunity for the American people, black and white, to lift their eyes and hearts to better times ahead for all.

The intensity and passion of Dr King, as he repeated and re-echoed that wonderful vision, like the ancient Irish bards, in their Aisling poems and exhortations that one day too the Irish body and soul would be lifted, set free, in the glorious sunshine of brotherhood and equality for all; that hope would never fade, that dreams would never die.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s iconic speech and while the ‘dream’ may not be fully realised it is still alive and active. ‘I have a dream’ that one day ‘we shall overcome’!

Dr Martin Luther King Jr addresses marchers during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. (AP/Press Association Images)

The full speech by Dr Martin Luther King Jr can be read here. You can watch the speech in full here:


Read more from our ‘Favourite Speeches’ summer series

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