I Have A Dream
Reverend Happy Watkins Passes Along Wisdom While Performing Dr. King’s Memorable Speech
On August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of the most powerful speeches ever given. Over 200,000 civil-rights activists attended the event. Nearly 50 years later, his message is still strong and relevant. And now a whole new generation is learning Dr. King’s message, thanks to people like the Reverend Happy Watkins.
Each year Watkins, Pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in Spokane, generously reenacts King’s speech to audiences, conveying so much power and emotion that listeners are often left pondering their own dreams. Last Thursday morning, he treated the students at Lakeside High School to his humor, wisdom and powerful rendition of Dr. King’s moving sermon.
Watkins gave a brief history of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the students to give them a better idea of the man behind the speech. King graduated from high school at age 15 and received his PhD by the age of 25. Through a short anecdote, Watkins, with his humorous style, confessed that he didn’t graduate from high school until he was 19 1/2 years old, saying, “It was pneumonia.” His grandson replied, “You had pneumonia?” And Watkins eagerly responded, “No, I couldn’t spell it!”
Watkins continued, “If Martin Luther King were here today, he’d say, ‘Each person is unique, special, gifted. Each person needs to find out what their passion is. And each person needs to follow their dream.’ “
Watkins stressed family values, stating, “If Dr. King were here now, he would say ‘Knowledge is power.’ And you learn from your dad and mommy. Respect and honor your parents,” Watkins declared. “Your parents are the greatest teachers. What is the greatest institution?” he continued. “It’s family built with love and dreams,” he said.
Watkins told another comical tale, this time about his son James. The audience erupted with laughter. But during the story, Watkins ingeniously transitioned into King’s speech. The audience was silent. As the speech progressed, Watkins boomed into the microphone; nearly shouting, he gave the crowd a moving reenactment of King’s delivery, with his body language, voice and eyes perfectly telling the story.
As Watkins left the podium, the students erupted in thunderous applause and gave him a standing ovation. As the students returned to class a few lingered, thanking him individually for his thrilling speech. Destiny Prouty, a freshman at Lakeside, described her reaction to Watkin’s presentation. “It was great, really great. I felt happy and sad during his rendition of King’s speech, and it made me think of my own dream...to have a family, a loving family and live free,” she said.
Watkins gave his listeners a glimpse into the past. He reminded everyone why we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, why one man’s voice is still so influential, so strong, and how a movement can change the way people live forever. Reverend Watkins is living King’s dream and bringing King’s story to life all over again. If ever given a chance to hear him speak, do it. He is phenomenal.