Rhetorical Critique Martin Luther King Jr I Have a Dream Essay

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Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” Rhetorical Critique”

The speech titled “I Have a Dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was delivered before a mammoth 250 000 people crowd during the March on Washington in 1963. In the opening parts of the speech, Dr. King refers to the Proclamation of Emancipation and the Gettysburg Address. He also makes reference to the constitution and the Declaration of independence ("Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech - American Rhetoric" 1). Dr. King uses the references to render credibility and historical relevance to his speech. A combination of Dr. King’s inspirational physical presence, the content of his speech and the historical timing converged to shape the much acclaimed speech; “I Have a Dream”. The speech reshaped the Civil Rights Movement campaigns and perspective in America. African Americans began to see the positive effects of the civil rights campaigns that were risky to those that participated. For instance, the Freedom Rides campaign of 1961 saw participants subjected to vicious attacks and beatings. However, it succeeded because, in the end, the Interstate Commerce Commission ended decades of segregation on buses.

African Americans greatly identified with the issues expressed in Dr. King’s rhetoric. The effect was partly because of the religious and spiritual nature of humans. Those are the aspects that seem to unite all human beings; irrespective of their race or color of skin. It is a transcendental quality that seeks greater wellness and good for all. Dr. King, in his speech, explored the notion of platonic justice; a common concept held by all humans; and highlighted its relevance in the need for change in the real world. MLK carefully chose the place from where he gave his speech, for symbolic effect. He stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and uttered the first words in the Gettysburg Address. He began: “Five score years ago……a great American….. signed the Emancipation Proclamation” ("Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech - American Rhetoric" 1)”

The speech by Dr. King is considered a rhetoric masterpiece. The speech references critical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation in the history of America. It also highlights issues in the constitution of America. The speech highlights the need for integration and racial justice. These concepts inevitably became mantras in the call for justice and equality by African American communities for generations that followed. The speech still rings in the ears of these communities in the same way they remember the Declaration of independence ("‘I Have a Dream’ Speech - Facts & Summary - HISTORY.com" 1). From Dr. King’s Speech, one can understand the socio-economic and political problems that affected the US at the time.

Dr. King begins his speech by quoting the words by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address. The words are meant to stir up memories and refer the populace to the abolition of slavery as expressed in the Emancipation Proclamation. He points out that that moment was like a joyous daybreak that put an end to the long night of slavery. Dr. King uses anaphora through his speech. At the early stages of delivering his speech, Dr. King urges the audience to seize the opportunity. He emphasizes the point; three times in paragraph six. The commonest example of the use of anaphora is “I have a dream” repeated severally (eight times) in the speech. MLK conjures an image of a unified America, for the audience in attendance. More instances of the use of the technique include: “One hundred years later”, “with this faith”, “free at last” and “Let freedom ring”

Parallel structures align similar information. For instance, in paragraph 2 of the speech, Dr. King utters four sentences that start with “one hundred years later...” consecutively. Each of the sentences uttered express different aspects of the level of despair by African Americans, i.e. segregation, poverty and discrimination. The repeated phrase clearly expresses the plight of African Americans as matters stand presently, and the urgent need for change("‘I Have…

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Work Cited

\"‘I Have a Dream’ Speech - Facts & Summary - HISTORY.Com.\" HISTORY.com. N.p., 2018. Web. 10 Feb. 2018.

\"Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech - American Rhetoric.\" Americanrhetoric.com. N.p., 2018. Web. 10 Feb. 2018.


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