In a recent survey of college students on U.S. civic literacy, more than 81 percent knew that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was expressing hope for "racial justice and brotherhood" in his historic "I Have a Dream" speech.
That's the good news.
Most of the rest surveyed thought King was advocating the abolition of slavery.
Oops. Not that he wouldn't have advocated the abolition of slavery, if it still existed at that time in the U.S., but still, ya gotta wonder.
Beyond knowledge, we can also look at what people think about King. One good source is this 1999 poll that asked about the greatest people this past century. King finishes just behind Mother Teresa in the "admire most" score. As an aside, Bill Clinton wins in the "do not admire" contest -- in a landslide. A distant second is, um, Billy Graham?
Of course King's name comes up in a host of other ways, from the controversy over having a holiday in his honor to standard survey questions asking whether King's dream is alive today. There are too many of those to touch on here, especially when I should be prepping for tomorrow's classes.