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Sharing a dream

Ever since Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has captured the ears and hearts of many Americans. For the past 47 years, one Suffolk native has made it his mission to keep the speech alive.

John Holly was only 12 years old when his sixth-grade teacher played the famous speech for the class. He vividly remembers the video of still images of King giving the speech in Washington, D.C., while the speech’s audio was playing in the background.

“The tears started rolling,” said Holly. “I looked at my teacher and told her I wanted to learn this speech, and she told me to go for it.”

According to Holly, after 47 years, he can now recite the speech by heart. When giving the speech, his goal is always to perform like Martin Luther King Jr. himself is there, giving it with the same oratory power to capture the attention of those listening.

“When I give this speech, I step back and ask the Lord to help me,” said Holly. “I don’t want to overpower, but make it feel like it is him speaking like he did that day. No matter the skin color, we can always learn.”

Each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Holly gives the speech at different locations, but mainly at churches. Due to COVID-19, this year, he will have to perform the speech virtually. Holly has not yet confirmed with a church but is in the process of doing so.

Suffolk is not the only location Holly has given this speech. Once on a trip through Atlanta, Holly stopped by Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park and gave the “I Have a Dream” speech at King’s final resting place.

“It’s just something I want to do,” said Holly. “I do this as a gift. Forty-seven years is a long time, but I don’t do it for the attention. It comes straight from the heart, and I am excited to continue.”