Still, the "I Have A Dream" speech delivered to the 200,000 who converged on the nation's capital on Aug. 28, 1963, is perhaps the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most memorable one, and the words of that speech have come to be considered a major part of his legacy.
Dr. King's actual birthday was Friday, but the federal holiday in his honor was observed Monday, and the commemoration events stretched from last week through this week.
The words of the 1963 speech played a central role in most of the Delaware County memorial and commemorative events honoring the slain civil rights leader.
The speech, uttered by Thelma Preston, rang out through the reaches of Calvary Baptist Church in Chester Thursday at the citywide celebration in honor of Dr. King, who preached at the church from 1949 to 1951 while attending Crozer Theological Seminary.
It emanated in the leader's own voice from a tape Friday morning as more than 300 people stood holding candles at a tribute on the Delaware County campus of Pennsylvania State University in Middletown.
A student at the Swarthmore-Rutledge K-8 School recited the speech during a dramatization of the events that led up to the civil rights movement - one of several such assemblies that took place on Friday in county schools.
And the speech was referred to and paraphrased by speakers who assembled at the Crozer-Chester Medical Center for "Keeping the Dream Alive," a Friday memorial service.
The words of the song that is symbolic of the civil rights movement swept through the sanctuary as scores of people knelt at the altar.
"Oh, oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome one day," they sang as the Rev. Harold A. Carter, of New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore, prayed.
"Keep us, oh Lord, and help us keep the dream alive," said Mr. Carter, who attended the seminary with Dr. King and worked with him during the civil rights movement.
Some wept as Mr. Carter's words gained intensity and as the strains of the song reverberated in the church.
It was an emotional conclusion to an emotional memorial service Thursday at Chester's Calvary Baptist Church.
About 500 people, including Mayor Willie Mae James Leake and dignitaries
from throughout the region, attended the celebration.
"This is the first and only black national holiday, and we in Chester, where King lived, feel a special need to celebrate," said Hilda McNear, chairwoman of the Calvary committee that sponsored the celebration.
The two-hour ceremony featured words from Herman Dowson, who was Calvary's delegate to Dr. King's funeral and who helped lead the ox-cart cortege through the streets of Atlanta.
He told the audience of the long train ride to Atlanta for the funeral and described the April 1968 assassination as "a sad time for all of us."
On what would have been Dr. King's 59th birthday Friday, about 50 people sat in Crozer Hall at Crozer-Chester Medical Center with the afternoon sun slanting through long windows.
The racially mixed group sang, prayed and reflected on the impact Dr. King has had on "the collective conscience of society."
Judging from the rousing sermon given by the Rev. William "Rocky" Brown Jr., and the enthusiastic singing and the murmurs of agreement from the assembly, Dr. King is still revered by the Crozer-Chester community.
The service was sponsored by the four-year-old Martin Luther King Committee of Crozer-Chester Hospital and Vicinity.
Mr. Brown said: "No other single black or white American has had more impact throughout the world . . . than Martin Luther King Jr. He challenged the consciences of millions of people to come to grips with such noble principles as peace, brotherhood, love, mercy, justice and good will."
Mr. Brown is controller of the City of Chester, treasurer of Church Against Narcotics, an anti-drug organization, and pastor of First Baptist Church in Coatesville.
One of Dr. King's greatest contributions to the fight for civil rights was the use of nonviolent action for social change, Mr. Brown said.
"The first principal of nonviolence is that it is not a method for cowards. It does resist - it is the way of the strong. It employs passive resistance physically and active resistance spiritually," he said.
Another component of nonviolent resistance is that "it takes direct action against the evil itself and not against the . . . oppressor," he said.
Dr. King also believed that the nonviolent resister "must be willing to suffer without retaliation (and must) . . . not allow the hatred of the oppressor to infiltrate the mind of the nonviolent resister. In other words,
because someone hates you, that doesn't mean you have to hate them."
In his syndicated newspaper column and on his black public affairs television program, Tony Brown, a founding dean of the Howard University School of Communications in Washington, has urged black Americans to face up to themselves.
On Friday, at Penn State's Delaware County Campus commemoration to Dr. King, Brown's refrain was no different.
"The only way anyone is ever going to understand this country is to understand that this is not a melting pot," Brown told the predominantly black audience. "If you are born black, you are going to die black."
He said that too many blacks are trying to be accepted by society by emulating whites rather than being true to their own heritage and culture.
"Where did King come from? King came from a black family, a black church, a black college and a black community; you can't take that away from him," Brown said. "King never ran away from what King was, and King was great."
His remarks were punctuated by applause and shouts of "That's right," and ''Tell it, brother."
Brown is the host of the syndicated Tony Brown's Journal, which is seen weekly on more that 240 public television stations.
He told the students and others gathered in the campus library that if they are to bring Dr. King's dream to reality they must know the history and achievements of their people and they must always strive for excellence.
"If you make Fs and you are black as the night, you are not a part of King's dream, so don't kid yourself," he said.
During the tribute, sponsored by the Black Student League, student Shawn Bradley's bass voice rolled about the room as he sang the spiritual "Precious Lord."
Tracy Edney, league president, said the program was meant to honor "a great man who has represented courage, strength, wisdom, power and struggle through his great work for humanity."
Eighth graders at the Swarthmore-Rutledge K-8 School stretched their imaginations toward Dr. King's vision of equality on his birthday by presenting a dramatization of the events that ignited the civil rights movement.
"Our story today is about equal rights, equal rights if you're black or white, male or female, or whatever religion you are," narrator Tory Sabrey said Friday.
To illustrate their story, the students recreated scenes from the 1955-56 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, a mass action sparked by Rosa Parks' refusal to give her seat on a bus to a white man. The boycott lasted 382 days and resulted in desegregation of the Montgomery bus system.
Two white students, one dressed in white and the other dressed in black, portrayed Parks and the white man who asked her to give up her seat. Another student portrayed the police officer who carted Parks off to jail.
After the show, the students said they had not realized that Parks' action was so central to the beginnings of the movement that Dr. King would lead.
"I thought it was all him," Tory said. "I didn't know that he was inspired by Rosa Parks."
Poetry readings from the works of Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes were also included in the students' half-hour presentation before 500 Swarthmore- Rutledge students.
"Well, I'll tell you: Life for me ain't been no crystal stair," one student read from the Hughes poem "Mother To Son," which has a mother telling her son how hard she had struggled for her family.
"So boy, don't you turn back. Don't you set down on the steps. 'Cause you finds it's kinder hard. Don't you fall now - for I'se still goin, honey. I'se still climbing. And life for me ain't been no crystal stair," the student intoned.
Words from popular rap group Run-D.M.C. rounded out the program, with the song "I'm Proud to Be Black," accompanied by students dancing to the rap beat on stage.
The presentation ended with a skit portraying Dr. King's family receiving the news of his assassination on April 4, 1968.
Dr. King "changed history, not only for black people but for everyone," narrator Sarah Stafford said.