“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr.


When having thoughts about a speech that is well known for its effectiveness and success, the first speech that comes to the mind is “I Have a Dream” delivered by Martin Luther King. It is one of the rhetorically persuasive speeches that has ever been made. King was able to express successfully his opinions during the speech, thus emotionally affecting a majority of his listeners.  He successfully judged the tone and mood of the audience, and he managed to relate with the audience appropriately. The success of the speech was from his inspirational tone, the structure of his speech, which was appealing to the audience using rhetoric modes such as ethos, pathos and logos, and the sensitivity of the approach to the audience.

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King employed an informative, descriptive, and inspirational tone when delivering the speech. The speech has a simple context because it was targeting a broad audience and the aim was that everybody could easily comprehend the content. Martin Luther King discussed his points using a tone that made the audience eager to listen. It is evident when the king says “the Americans broke their promises, The African-Americans are not yet free, and the Americans have the responsibility for spreading the message that every American citizen including the African -Americans has the right to freedom.” King used an inspirational tone since at that time the African Americans could experience brutalities in the form of rape, beatings, and imprisonment.   From his speech, he had a dream that there will come a day that the African-Americans could not face discrimination from the White-Americans based on their color.

The speech’s structure plays a paramount role towards its success. King intended to use a structure, which could make the audience have sympathy to the African-Americans, discourage any act of racism and grant the black people hope for having a great world. There is the use of rhetoric strategies like ethos, logos, and pathos which along with metaphor and irony which provokes the audience. For example, King points out that the black Americans’ life is “crippled by chains of discrimination and manacles of segregation” and that the Negros live on “lonely island of poverty” in the middle of a “gigantic ocean of material wealth.” The statement made the white audience have an understanding of how the blacks experienced a terrible predicament, which triggered them to dislike their hateful actions, and deeply strike in blacks’ hearts, as the message paints out their state.

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King uses pathos in backing up his basic structure, and this makes the audience not to hate black people but instead despise racism and desire for a better world. A clear example of the use of pathos is when King says, “I have a dream where one day my four children are living in a nation without being discriminated by their color but by their character.” The statement stands out, as it is very inspiring and heartfelt. It even makes the audience to reflect on their children because there is no parent among the listeners who would wish their children to experience similar racial discrimination problems. The quote evokes the feelings of the audience in ending racial discrimination.

Logos, ethos, and rhetorical appeals are also evident in Martin Luther King’s speech.  An example of the use of logos during the speech dates back to the Emancipation of proclamation signed by Lincoln. He says that “five score years ago” there was the signing of the “Emancipation of proclamation” by Lincoln, which declared the slaves free, and the whites not to treat the blacks as property.  There is a piece of the evidence which the king uses in showing that even Lincoln a great man in American history was against the discrimination of the blacks. Thus, the king created an ethos appeal through Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation logos. Martin Luther King also presents that “the declaration of independence and the constitution” says that all people both white and black should have equal rights. However, this is not the case since America has broken its promise to the African- Americans. Ethically, it is proper for any person or state to keep their promise. The message puts racism to light, and it makes the whites uncomfortable regarding their actions.

Martin Luther King in Washington delivered the speech “I Have a Dream” in 1963. It played a crucial role in changing the lives of many black Americans who were experiencing segregation and racism. The speech contains a moving and heartwarming connect which is appealing to its audience. There is the usage of the three rhetorical modes, i.e., logos, pathos and ethos which makes the structure if the speech to be effective. The speech is a great masterpiece of rhetoric where King involved his emotional content and using an inspirational tone thus making it successful.

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  1. King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have a Dream Speech – American Rhetoric.”Americanrhetoric.Com, 1963.
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