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Benefits of technology: Access to great speeches

by Mike McFeely

Yes, technology has drawbacks. Our kids spend too much time tap-tap-tapping, and not enough time talking with us. Heck, adults spend too much time on our smartphones, tablets and laptops. Most agree the world would be a better place if we spent more time in a boat fishing with our kids or sitting under a shade tree sipping lemonade with our spouses, and less time Googling "Miley Cyrus twerk."

But there are incredible positives to technology, too. One of them is the ease with which we have access to historical video and audio using Web sites like YouTube.

Case in point: I've spent time today watching a few YouTube videos of Martin Luther King's speeches, knowing that Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. I will play audio from that speech Wednesday on the "Mike McFeely Show" on 790 KFGO.

As a benefit to researching the "I Have a Dream" speech, I was reminded of other King speeches. They included his final speech in 1968, one day prior to his assassination in Memphis, Tenn. It was dubbed the "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speech and turned out to be prescient because King hinted to the audience on more than one occasion that he was unlikely to live much longer during the civil-rights battle. King gave the speech on April 3. He was shot and killed the next day.

The title of the speech, in fact, came from this line from King: "I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't really matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind."

The power of King's oratory is remarkable. The substance of his words is jarring. The grace and courage with which he speaks is humbling.

Perhaps as remarkable is the occasion for King's speech. This was not a nationally-televised address or a major rally in the nation's capital. No, he was speaking at the Mason Temple in Memphis in support of a sanitation workers strike. Black workers had for years been mistreated finally walked off the job in protest. King, of course, turned the speech into a big-picture view of the civil rights struggle ... but still ... he made this speech in support of poor, mostly black people who collected garbage for a living.

Imagine that happening today.

Even those who might not agree with King or support his views should be stirred by these words from the speech, which relate to people's right to peacefully assemble and have their voice heard by the government:

"Somewhere I read ... of the freedom of assembly.

"Somewhere I read ... of the freedom of speech.

"Somewhere I read ... of the freedom of the press.

"Somewhere I read ... that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights!"

King, of course, was referring to the U.S. Constitution.

Please take a couple of minutes and watch this video of King's speech in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968. If nothing else, appreciate the power of a great orator and the substance of a great speech.

Technology isn't all bad. It allows us to be reminded of pivotal moments in history like this one and the "I Have a Dream" speech.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)