Drew Hansen shares knowledge of King’s ‘Dream’ speech

UPDATE: Apparently Hansen wasn’t done yet. Here’s his op-ed published Tuesday in the New York Times. 

Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s transcendent “I Have a Dream” speech.

As the occasion approaches, media outlets across the country are striving to place the historic day in context. For help, some are turning to islander and state legislator Drew Hansen.


Few people are as intimately familiar with King’s speech as Hansen. The Bainbridge lawyer and 23rd  District representative is also author of “The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation,” a study of the meaning, context and legacy of the famous oration.

“The Dream” was published by Harper Collins in 2003 coincide 40th anniversary of the March on Washington. Hansen became a popular guest speaker after the book’s release, giving numerous talks on King and the speech over the last decade. As the 50-year anniversary of the march approaches, he is once again sharing his insights.

In a USA Today story published earlier this month, Hansen noted the “Dream” speech slid toward obscurity in the years after it was delivered. The speech returned to prominence only after King’s death in 1968, and became – “one of those things we look to when we want to know what America means,” Hansen told the paper.

Hansen also discussed the improvisation that led to the famous “dream” refrain (King abandoned his prepared text when he launched into the now-celebrated conclusion). And in a separate USA Today story, Hansen gave his thoughts on a document that may or may not be an original copy of the speech.

The Globe and Mail of Canada published a transcript of the speech with annotations by Hansen on Friday. Hansen examined King’s biblical and historical allusions, and expanded on the political backdrop of the march.

These are well-trodden topics for Hansen, who became fascinated by the speech as a law student at Yale. He researched and wrote several papers on the subject. The papers  became the basis for “The Dream” book.

Hansen was appointed to the state House of Representatives in 2011 but is still called on as a King scholar. Earlier this year he joined Rev. Samuel McKinney, a longtime friend of King, at Bainbridge High School to discuss the civil rights movement with students.

In 2012 he took to the floor of the state House to read a resolution honoring King into the state record. This is what he had to say:

Photo by Brad Camp/Olympic Photo Group

2 thoughts on “Drew Hansen shares knowledge of King’s ‘Dream’ speech

  1. Notwithstanding Mr. Hansen’s chronicling of MLK’s speech 50 years ago, the event today was not filled with hope and determination. Instead today’s MLK event was filled with anger, demands for more affirmative action, negativity, political agitprop and faded hope. It is good to remember the soaring rhetoric of our country’s pioneers. It is also good to say today liberal black leadership speaking were wealthy and extremely ungrateful. Hope springs eternal.

    Also nice shameless plug for the book. Wonder if Al Sharpton spoke to DH for a real black perspective?

  2. James Olsen says: “Hope springs eternal.”

    He could have said: “Hey! I have a dream too. A recurring(3x) dream…”

    Wake up, Mr. Olsen…

Comments are closed.