John Lewis speech: Discussion Questions
- Primary Document Review: Who wrote this speech? When was it delivered?
- Who was the intended audience(s) for this speech? How do you think this might have influenced its content and/or tone?
- John Lewis's speech was considered controversial, even without the lines that were cut. Consider the message(s) he conveys in the speech. Have one member of your group describe in his/her own words the overall message John Lewis conveyed in the speech he delivered at the March on Washington. Have another member of your group describe the message conveyed by the portion of his speech that was cut. Have a third member of your group describe how the messages differed. (If your group doesn't find a significant difference between them, discuss why you think individuals at the time did perceive a difference and saw Lewis' speech as controversial.)
- How does John Lewis use analogy, language, and tone to make his point? What are some specific examples of this?
- What, if anything, strikes you in particular in John Lewis' speech? How does the tone and/or message differ from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech?
- John Lewis was pressured by various leaders, including some of those organizing the March, to make changes to his speech or risk being cut from the program. (They were particularly concerned about the analogy he made to General Sherman's march through the South in the Civil War, in which Sherman and his troops burned down Atlanta.) With this in mind, do you think he should have cut the lines that he cut? Why or why not?
- Optional: Read Congressman John Lewis' reflection back on the March on Washington in a 2003 interview from the John F. Kennedy Library.
- How, if at all, does this interview affect your understanding of Lewis' speech?