Professor Corey King
16 September 2018
Rhetorical Analysis: I Have a Dream Speech”
Tony Robbins once quoted, “Throughout human history, our greatest leaders and thinkers have used the power of words to transform our emotions, to enlist us in their causes, and to shape the course of destiny. Words cannot only create emotions, they create actions. And from our actions flow the results of our lives.” One of the most influential speeches that occurred in the history of America was the ‘I have a Dream Speech” delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963. He was able to stand before a crowd of over 250,000 people and declare his views on a pivotal issue that will have a role in ending segregation for African Americans. This speech evoked the spirit of fighting for equality for all individuals regardless of skin color and nationality. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was able to deliver a powerful speech that persuaded a nation to unite through the elements of morality, emotion, and reason that all men are created equal.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uses the element of morality by using a President who was known for empowering and gaining the trust of the American people. He states, “Five score years ago a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation” (King). Using the Emancipation Proclamation and the reputation of President Abraham Lincoln helped with establishing the credibility of his speech. President Abraham Lincoln would have been considered a person that people looked up too and his reign involved him fighting for equality. In order for others to connect with what you are bringing forth, they must understand that this is not something you thought of on a whim. He was able to refer to a document that showed a president’s intentions and slow effort towards a progressive movement in American history. He also referenced the founding fathers where he noted the promise that was made for all men included the African American race even if the nation failed short of that promise. He stated, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir” (King). With these words Dr. King shows the fact that the founding fathers stated a statement of what is not taken effect at that present moment. Every person no matter of their skin color is supposed to be free and receive equal rights which is a duty that need to be enforced.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. relies heavily on emotions to appeal to the audience. An appeal to their emotion is when he states, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (King). He was able to use the plea of having a better life for the future of his children to way heavy in the hearts of citizens. The children are our future, and any parent would want their child to live in a world that is better than what they are used to. He is speaking to the reality that people are judged by the color of the skin versus what they can bring to the table the strong truths of discrimination and the change that is needed. He was able to reference controversial topics such as segregation, Jim Crow laws, and police brutality without voicing statistics and evidence but he used the emotion that comes from that to resonate through the crowd. Dr. King repeated the statement, “I Have a Dream,” through his speech to emphasized hope and compassion for the struggle and promise of African Americans and those different from society’s norm in that period of time. Another way that Dr. King uses emotion is the tone of his voice and the intensity behind it. Having the profession of a minister gave him the platform for using correct diction, pitch and knowing how to work the audience. His tone, repetition, and the rhythm of how his words flowed are what awed the crowd. Phrases such as, “let freedom ring”, “free at last”, and “I Have a Dream” is what drew and impacted the audience.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uses reason to show the importance of the I Have a Dream Speech and why he wanted things in the nation to change. He is able to use real-life experiences that makes it relatable for his audience. Quotes such as “we can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only” and “we cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote, and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote” (King) mirrors experiences the crowds current state. There where individuals in attendance who did not go through the same experience as the majority, but they were able to learn about someone else experience through speech. Listening to other experiences gave attendees a different lens to look through which promoted them to connect with others, reexamine views and assumptions, and see different ways to bridge the nation. Dr. King is able to remind his audience that while racism exist but there are supporters of the movement that realize the significance of their struggle. Dr. King was able to use analogies to express the hindrances of the African American people when he stated, “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ”insufficient funds” (King). Most individuals understand the use of money and its importance. When Dr. King uses the analogy of a bad check so that his audience can relate to receiving one while Caucasians are giving good checks. The impact of reason gives Dr. King the opportunity to advise attendees that they have not been given equal opportunities, equal rights, and respect that others receive.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from a place of hope and determination to be apart of a nation that respected all people. Dr. King was able to use morality to gain trust by using a famous individual and impactful documents. Dr. King was able to use emotion to leave his audience empowered, grateful and purposeful. Dr. King was able to use reason to evoke the support through real experiences. Even if he was not able to lay eyes on the basic right he had the faith that injustice would not last especially for the next generation of leaders, but I had to start with those who was able to hear the “I Have a Dream” speech resonate in their ears and hearts. Dr. King was able to appeal to the nation with love, faith, experience, and a powerful lasting impression.
King, Martin L., Jr. “I Have a Dream.” Speech. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C. 28 Aug. 1963. American Rhetoric. Web. 16 Sep. 2018. www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm.
He was o why he is delivering this speech and why he wants things to change. He is delivering this speech to show how many blacks and other races, that weren’t being treated equally, really didn’t have freedom like they should. “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro.”
The last lines tie together some of the speeches overarching themes: religion, hope, and visions of the future.
The middle of the speech focuses on the specifics of the movement MLK led: goals, methods, and motivation. He encourages his fellow protesters to stick with their long-term struggle by embracing redemptive suffering, using non-violent methods, and joining with people of other races.
Martin Luther King, Jr. knew he couldn’t accomplish his goals without getting everybody possible involved—African Americans, white people, politicians, students, adults, etc. This is the job of a leader: to inspire. And, often, the best way to inspire people is by playing to emotion.
Like a preacher, MLK aims for an emotional spirituality. One of his favorite tools for this is metaphor: “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” (6.4). The imagery here references the idea of “the valley of death,” a motif in Christianity.
he line places responsibility on activists, not to bring about change only for themselves, but so