National Press Club

MLK’s NPC Speech -- At Last -- In His Own Voice

John Hughes | January 7, 2016

People ask me, "What has been the highlight of your NPC presidency?"

I respond, "I think Tuesday night will be it."

Excerpts from Martin Luther King's historic National Press Club speech will be aired at 7:30pm for the first time since they were delivered 53 years ago in the Club's ballroom.

The event is nearly sold out as I write this column. Click here to see if you can grab one of the few remaining tickets.

For me, this event has been a full year in the making.

While writing my NPC inaugural speech, I mentioned the titans who have spoken at the Club -- people like FDR, Mandela, Kennedy, Reagan, Gorbachev, and of course, King.

I was struck that in all my years as a Club member, I had heard plenty of lore about appearances by FDR, Kennedy and Mandela. But I had heard very little about King. Why was that? His visit seemed to have gotten lost in Club history.

As I wrote last February in my first article about King's visit, the Club will now have a permanent memorial to King's visit. The plaque will be unveiled at Tuesday's event.

But the night will feature so much more than a memorial unveiling.

Joe Madison, the human and civil rights activist and prominent African American radio host known on SiriusXM’s Urban View channel, will moderate an amazing program that features Simeon Booker, the National Press Club's 1982 Fourth Estate Award winner and one of the first African Americans to join the Club. He was in the room when King delivered the speech in 1962.

Also commenting on the speech will be an accomplished panel. Details here. Gil Klein of the History & Heritage Committee has been the outstanding organizer of this event and NPC Archivist Jeff Schlosberg has been crucial in creating the memorial plaque.

The highlight, of course, will be King himself. I have been reviewing a transcript of King's speech in preparation for the program. I am struck by how many common King themes he struck, including his "dream" of civil rights. Keep in mind his most famous "I Have A Dream" speech was more than a year away. But on July 19, 1962 at the National Press Club, King had this to say:

"We are simply seeking to bring into full realization the American dream, a dream yet unfulfilled, a dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed, a dream of a land where men no longer argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character. The dream of a land where every man will respect the dignity and the worth of human personality."

These words will be on the memorial that will take up a permanent home at the Club. I have read these words -- now you have too. But on Tuesday night, we will hear them for the first time in King's own voice -- at the National Press Club -- in the same room where he delivered them 53 years ago.

I expect to get a chill.