Associate Professor of Communication John Llewellyn and junior and mathematical business major William Scott Murphy, ΥΔ '13, first met one another in Llewellyn’s first-year seminar titled American Speeches of the 20th Century.
Through this class and under Llewellyn’s tutelage, Murphy made a discovery that had long been overlooked by many in history and rhetoric. Murphy set out to compare two Martin Luther King Jr. speeches: "The Negro and the Constitution” and "I Have a Dream.”
Though many had known about the former speech, no one had thought to make the comparison. King’s "Dream” speech was delivered on Aug. 28, 1963 during the March on Washington, and has since become the most recognized and highly acclaimed American speech of the 20th century.
Through his research, however, Murphy revealed that the general thematic concepts and imagery behind King’s "Dream” speech were actually articulated in 1944 at the Georgia Black Elks speech contest in Dublin, Ga., when King was 15.
"If you take off the dream and faith sections, the remaining 949 words of the ‘Dream’ speech and the 927 words of the ’44 speech share a number of important themes,” Llewellyn said. "The policy portion of King’s argument was all in the first 900 words. People remember the dream section, but they don’t remember the bad check metaphor. They’re hearing the music, but they’re not hearing the words.”
After Murphy did the fundamental research identifying the shared themes, Llewellyn’s role became to take the findings out of the classroom and into a medium where they could be shared with the general public. Therefore, in November 2010, Llewellyn traveled to the National Communication Association Convention in San Francisco, Calif., where the research was presented. "I don’t think King sat down in ‘63 to repeat what he had said in ‘44,”
Llewellyn said. "However, he had those ideas about civil rights in America long before he sat down to write the ‘Dream’ speech.”
Through the interest and intrigue in this discovery, the duo has received media attention. Llewellyn’s op-ed piece on the topic has appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution; the discovery has been discussed on the Bob Edwards show on Sirius radio; and they have been on the sets of local affiliates for both Fox and CBS News.
Murphy described the discovery and media attention as a "fun experience.”
"I got a couple of texts from friends back home,” Murphy said. "The way these things typically run, it’s like a combination of a little work and a good deal of luck. When I originally looked at this topic, I didn’t have the knowledge that I was discovering something new.”
Murphy is a manager of the men’s basketball team and he is preparing for the upcoming season. When asked what was next on the agenda, he joked, "Survive and move on.”
Llewellyn sees Murphy’s discovery as encouraging for other students. "I think that other Wake students who take a cue from Will should recognize that they can do important things without waiting for someone’s permission,” Llewellyn said. "They can make a difference and make an impact.”
Llewellyn is now completing a chapter about ethical issues in collegiate sports, addressing coaching salaries, graduation rates and athletes’ rights to their images. He hopes to address the issue of how American society acts on its values.
Article courtesy of Old Gold & Black, Sherea DelSol