“I have a dream” was a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Junior on August 28, 1963, in Washington D.C. While Martin Luther was an activist, loved and followed by many people, he had a talent of delivering his speeches in such a way that people were made to listen to him to the end. He used many styles to get the audience’s attention.
The speech had various styles of persuasion. It was a very influential and captivating speech. The author’s emotions are reflected in the rhetorical devices, metaphors, and history that he used. He had an audience of 250,000 people, and others watched the speech on television. Whereas his words were motivating, the author had the specific audience he wanted to listen to the speech.
According to King, the speech supported equal rights for all Americans. This moment was a period of racial discrimination in the American world. The Afro-Americans have not been entirely free during the years after slavery had ended. The end of slavery came with freedom as a promise, but it remained only on paper for African Americans. They were still treated unjustly due to their skin colour. King seeks immediate freedom in his speech. In the speech, hatred and non-violent demonstrations are advocated.
The speech urges the black people not to hate or be bitter. Violence only causes deaths and more fighting, but discrimination issues remain in society. The fight was for continued equality and freedom for people with white and black skin (Echols 7). He laid no blame on the Caucasian men for how they treated the Afro-Americans. He only wanted peace.
From the beginning of the speech, it is clear that the author is very optimistic. His manner not to point fingers at anyone shows that the author was mature enough and knew what he was talking about. Intelligence and knowledge are also displayed in the style and manner the speech is written. The speech is backed up with historical information to ensure its credibility mentioning important dates.
The intention was to make the white men realize their actions against the black-skinned people with the hope of changing the attitude. The orator mentions that the Americans do not fulfil their promise towards black men (Davidson 12). The peace reflected in the speech was a way of gaining more supporters since people did not like violent movements.
Echols claims that the speech starts with a recap of Abraham Lincoln’s speech that all slaves were declared free (26). Fiscal 1865 was the year when slavery officially ended with the constitution being amended for the 13th time. King then relates it to the current situation where, after 100 years, black Americans are still segregated. Relating to historical issues was also a way of getting to the audience. Equality issues were also rampant in the past with the black men being victims (Echols 25).
The historical part was for the white audience to hear so that they would feel the impact of what the Afro-Americans were going through in their life. The speech has various Bible allusions that state that all people are created and that the people should not be bitter or bare hate in their hearts. Here, the purpose is to ensure peaceful demonstrations to avoid violence. Violence would make the white men blame the black men as the initiators of the war.
The speech arouses the concern of people making them want to listen to the speech with keen interest. The repetition brings hope for a better future for the audience. The better future is described as equality of black men with the rest of American society. The phrase is a form of motivation to continue fighting without giving up. King’s speech caught every person’s attention.
The listeners were holding on the contents of the speech he was delivering. He jumped from point to point, bringing the audience to the injustices going around and at the same time bringing hope for a better future (Luther 4). The speech was structured well to address its audience. It addressed all the three types of the audience quite well. The different types of the audience were: the discriminated black men, the racists and the white men who did not like the injustices on the former.
Davidson asserts that the speech uses various rhetorical modes (18). One of such modes is pathos. Pathos is a technique of using human emotions. Pathos used here makes white people empathize with the black ones while at the same time hating their actions against them. The black men are described as “crippled” to emphasize their helplessness, making the white men feel the Afro-Americans’ great calamity (Davidson 18). The difference in wealth between the two races is also emphasized using metaphors.
The black men are on a “lonely island of poverty” while the others are in an “ocean of prosperity”. The audience understands that the poverty of black-skinned people is not their fault; it is the law that pulls them back. He further uses a metaphor to describe racism as a “dark and desolate valley”. Here he wants everybody to hate racism and think of ways of stopping it.
He makes listeners want not to associate with racism by continuously giving racism a bad name. Hope is brought to the audience by the use of “I have a Dream” and “Let freedom ring”. Pathos is used to align the audience’s feelings to the plan of the author.
Logos and Ethos are the other rhetoric modes used. Logos involves using logic, while ethos involves social ethics. In fact, in order to make the audience see and believe that the white men gave empty promises, these two modes were used.
It is ethical to fulfil a promise, and when the Americans do keep their word, they are committing a social injustice. Racism itself is not morally right. Rhetoric modes were also used to make the people start thinking of a way forward (Echols 27). Ethos and Logos were used at the beginning of the speech. The movement was based on ethics.
Metaphors are used for comparison. A vivid picture is created in a person’s mind when something is compared to a thing related to life. Saying that nature can be changed to a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood”, the orator uses a metaphor. The metaphor is used to create a picture of how the world would be a better place filled with love without racial discrimination.
A metaphor is used to describe how black people are living (Davidson, 19). The history that tells us how the black-skinned people have suffered s emphasises the purpose of the speech. It encourages the audience with the objective of teaching society how to each other. Rhetorical questions like, “when will you be satisfied” in the speech, make the audience start thinking about everything that is happening. It triggers the black men’s feelings as they look for answers.
King was able to make the white men realise what they were making for the Afro-Americans to go through. His purpose to make the white people feel the plight of the black men was successful. He was also able to give the black people a sense of hope for the future. The message was reinforced as it was aligned with Biblical principles. The speech inspired many changes in America. It has proved to be one of the best persuasive speeches ever.
Davidson, Margaret. I Have a Dream: The Story of Martin Luther King. St. Louis, MO: Turtleback Books, 1994. Print.
Echols, James. I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Future of Multicultural America. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004. Print.
Luther, Martin. I Have a Dream. New York, NY: Random House Children’s Books, 2012. Print.