August 28 marks the 50 th anniversary of one of the most famous orations ever delivered – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Dr. King delivered the speech to a crowd of more than 250,000 from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. during the seminal "March on Washington" (above). Half a century later, the speech resonates as one of the most pivotal and indelible moments of the American Civil Rights Movement.
We caught up with a few black American Guinness World Records holders to get their thoughts on the legacy of Dr. King, the effect his speech had on them, and what dreams they have chased with his inspiration.
Here’s what they had to say, in their own words.
Most marathons run in a calendar year (female)
Corona, California, USA
"Growing up with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the "I Have a Dream" speech meant never giving up. Keep believing in yourself and your dreams.
The speech gave me faith and hopes to pursue my dreams. Dr. King's greatest legacy is non-violence and peace. My words of inspiration to the future generation of black Americans are to dream big and never give up!
My dream was to break my own record with a goal of 115 marathons and I could not have done it without a deadline, December 31, 2012. [And] I went beyond my dream – 120 marathons! Dream big."
Chris “The Duchess” Walton
Longest fingernails on a pair of hands (female)
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
“I was too young to know of Dr. King as a child, but being taught about and watching him on television, I learned not to be scared to live how I believe and not be afraid to go against the grain, no matter the world’s opinion.
His speeches mean more now because of the way the world is now. We are very advanced in technology but in simple human kindness we are very lacking. His words remind me that words, kind or harsh, go a long way in the hearts and minds of those who receive them.
I've learned that you shouldn't limit your life or dreams to one destination. Life is truly a journey. An unprepared road with many stops. My world record is one of my blessings along the way.
His greatest legacy in my opinion would be his outlook on human kindness and likeness. We are not as different as we go out of our way to be. We all want to be loved, respected, heard, and never forgotten.
In a world where the color of skin still makes a difference, we as black Americans have to make that difference obsolete with education and knowledge. Knowledge itself has no color or boundaries. It's what you don't know that limits you. Color will always be there, positive or negative. How we are born is just that. The discerning factor is knowledge.”
James “The Ropemaster” Thompson
Greatest weight supported while skipping a rope 10 times
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
“I think it was not only just Dr. King, but as I was coming up, I ran into a lot of African-American professors and teachers and they inspired me, just like Martin Luther King did with his works. They were all trying to say the same thing: don’t wait for the world to give you anything, go out and get it yourself.
Dr. King and his “I Have a Dream” speech, all my professors and coaches, they inspired me to give back. They told me, if you’ve got your life together – once you have all your basics down, it’s time to give back, time to make a difference.
That speech when it was said at the time, I think he was trying to inspire people to have hope and I think the spirit of that dream still lives today all over the world. I think the entire spirit of that speech was that one day, we would all maybe work together as one for humanity. Not for our separate selves, our separate communities, but think about humanity and how one person here getting treated badly affects people way across the globe.
If he came back today, I don’t think Dr. King would be as happy as he’d like to be, but the dream still lives and there’s hope all around the world. People still believe that their dream is possible. That’s the importance of it because we still have hope that one day, all the cultures will come together and work together as one. When I look back at Dr. King, I see a man who inspired people to reach out and grab more.”
Largest afro (female)
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
“My memories of Dr. King are of my parents speaking on where they were when he gave his famous speech, and also what that speech meant to them at that time. For me, it was of his work that he did for African Americans in fighting for civil rights.
I learned that all he wanted was equality for ALL. That he was a humble but strong man who stood for something and settled for nothing. He influenced me to stick up for myself and never let my race be a deciding factor in anything.
That speech meant to me that his faith was so strong he knew one day we'd all be able to live as one without judgment – that we as Americans could get past something so simple as skin color and treat one another with the respect we ALL deserve as human beings.
His greatest legacy would be that all races can come together freely without judgment and live in harmony. It's a wonderful thing.”