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The Speech That Propelled America towards Greater Civility
Although Martin Luther King died relatively young, his oratory capacities remain unmatched to date. On the 23rd of August 1963, at the Washington Mall, the gifted African American orator made the renowned speech titled, I have a dream. It was an exceptional moment for the American society as one man presented a heartfelt appeal for every citizen to be accorded equal status. What Martin Luther King envisioned for his African American brothers and sisters was at the time a very radical agenda. However, he was able to set the ball rolling towards a universal inclination for greater civil rights for every person living with America’s territories. Martin Luther King’s application of varied rhetorical devices throughout the iconic speech endeared to the hearts and minds of many ensuring that through it, he encouraged healing to a nation bleeding from centuries of racial injustices.
In summary, Martin Luther King visualized a far more beautiful America than many contemporaries during his time would have cared to imagine. He began by paying homage to one of the country’s most progressive leader, Abraham Lincoln who through the Emancipation Proclamation charted a future for the country where African Americans were as free as their fellow countrymen, the white Americans (King para 2). He decried the unfortunate outcome of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address since it did not fulfill the quest of fully granting the African American populace their inalienable rights, freedoms, and liberties. It clearly pained the orator that a hundred years later, African Americans were still suffering not from slavery but from racially instigated discrimination and segregation (King para 2-3). Through his speech, Martin Luther King displayed an unwavering conviction that a time had come when justice denied to African Americans for so long a time could no longer be held back. It is upon the back of that fresh reality that Martin Luther King spelt out his dream for a new America. His heartfelt hope is that his listeners both black and white should join hands, sit, and eat together until a point when the sounds of freedom and justice reverberated throughout the U.S.
Martin Luther King engaged his audiences with dramatic prose from the very beginning of his speech. He developed his thoughts on why the time was ripe for real change in a logical manner so that, it was clear as day that his dream was indeed valid. Furthermore, his application of logos demanded the support of every American citizen regardless of race towards a future that every parent desired their children to have. He explicitly stated that, “five score years ago, a great American.… signed the emancipation proclamation….but 100 years, the negro still is not free” (King para 2). These lines outline the degree of neglect African Americans have braved for a long time and the orator logically highlighted the sense of frustration he felt about it. His speech borders an expression of deep anger knowing full well that the majority of people that make up his audience share the same sentiments within their hearts. Dr. King employed logos as supporting evidence why they should denounce living as third class citizens yet the founding fathers, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the American dream encourage them to experience a full life. For instance, he associates the slow progression lasting 100 years with rights, liberties, freedoms, justice, and equality to a blank check (King para 2). The blank check with insufficient funds was indicative of the fact that African American communities were actually living in an unjust world. He, however, called on African American to embrace nonviolence as the only dignified and disciplined means through which to actualize his dream.
Through the application of pathos, Martin Luther King’s audiences are able to identify the source of his great energy and passion towards ensuring all Americans pursued his vision. For instance, he empathetically puts it across to everyone that as a parent, he desired a brighter future for his “four little children” where the “content of their character” and not “skin color” determined their worth (King para 16). He similarly highlights that hi dream ought not to be considered as benefiting the African American alone but the entire American society.
The speech, “I have a dream” portrays to audiences that Martin Luther King was a man of high ethical standing. For example, King did not advocate violence as an avenue for seeking equal rights, freedom, and justice for African Americans. He categorically stated that, “in the place of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds” (King para 7). These were the sentiments advanced by the nation’s founders as well as Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation. This implies that Martin Luther King’s clearly perceived America as having the capacity to transform into an ethically astute society. Every other American in their right mind also desired to live in communities that symbiotically supported peaceful coexistence among members towards attaining higher levels of prosperity and human dignity. For this reason, it was easy for the audiences to accord the orator great respect appreciating that he had full knowledge of why the entire nation would eventually desire to actualize his dream. Kings appeal to ethos expressly highlighted that the society was not progressing in the way it should. For instance, he cited police brutality, segregation, discrimination, and confinement in ghettos as unsatisfactory developments in American society (King para 9). By sharing his dream with them, he gave them an opportunity to rightly process why the rightful cause of achieving his had to go on ahead.
In conclusion, Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech achieved its purpose of motivating a country towards higher levels of dignity. Through the use of potent diction, right ethical standing, logical, and emotional appeal, the orator stirred African Americans to peacefully engage their white American neighbors towards building a nation proud of achieving equality, freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Dr. King literally touched the hearts and minds of each individual member of the audience to make a justifiable leap of faith away from a dark past into a brighter future.
King, Martin Luther. “I Have A Dream Speech (TEXT).” Huffington Post, 15 Jan. 2015, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/16/i-have-a-dream-speech-text-martin-luther-king-jr_n_1207734.html. Accessed 12 Nov. 2018.