I have a dream is a short utterance in which Martin Luther King believes that blacks and whites will be equal and can get rid of prejudices. Ford and Lockett (2018) assert that this address is regarded as one of the most successful speeches in history and has been admitted as the most influential speech of the last century. The power of the reasoning lies in the fact that it helped improve racial relations in America. King’s words, in part, assured President Kennedy to launch a massive campaign for historic human rights legislation that ended state-sanctioned racial segregation in the U. S. According to Salter (2019), many famous statesmen have browsed it repeatedly to improve their rhetorical skills. Emotional and persuasive interaction with the audience, a wide range of stylistic devices, including metaphors, epithets, and quotes, as well as the relative simplicity of language, made this speech one of the most powerful in history.
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A striking feature of I have a dream speech is King’s emotional and convincing interaction with the people, which also contributed to the power of the words. Since King’s action is a public speech, it is distinguished by some peculiarities: it should be understandable for the audience, expressive, and should hold the attention of the public throughout the utterance. Martin Luther begins his public address with an appeal to the men, praising all those present: “I am happy to join with you today” (King, 2003). The most vital aspect in his reasoning is the spirit with which he opines his ideas and how he appeals literally everyone. According to Ford and Lockett (2018), King masterfully tries to give each person in the square a split second with his gaze on the audience. Because of this, everyone will feel that the speech is being delivered specifically for him. Martin sincerely believed in his words because each of his words is saturated with faith in a happy future and positive changes. Thus, the author tries to inspirit the audience, and add strength to struggle further for the exemption of blacks, which also provides power to the address.
Martin Luther King uses a variety of colorful techniques to attract the public to the issue of racial discrimination. The author strives to create vivid images; therefore, he uses many epithets: symbolic shadow of America, joyous daybreak, marvelous new militancy, and a beautiful symphony of brotherhood (King, 2003). Moreover, King’s speech is characterized by an expanded metaphor: joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice (King, 2003). The author constantly repeated the phrase “I have a dream,” which sounded like a trigger for people every time, hinting at a personal story and revealing the speaker’s deep feelings and desires. Therefore, the plenty of metaphors, the application of unsuspected words, comparisons, and concepts, giving rise to vivid and unforgettable images made King’s performance successful.
The use of quotes also made this speech memorable. King’s address is crowded with citations to the Old and New Testaments, the U. S. Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Manifesto, and the U. S. Constitution. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,” “my country’s of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing…” (King, 2003). The use of quotations made King’s idea clearer and brighter, gave his theses the emotive shades of an absolute dream, and carried them to the depths of the minds and hearts of listeners. Salter (2019) notes that the author advisedly uses quotations from such sources which are admitted both among his proponents and opponents. Thus, addressing his speech to each of these parties, King increased his chances of impacting the audience, resulting in a performance that was one of the most successful in history.
An equally significant advantage of the speech, which also influenced its strength, is the style and format of the address, which lies in its simplicity. King didn’t try to quickly pronounce the sentence and move on to the next one. He paused strategically perfectly to get a standing ovation or get people thinking about his idea. According to Ford and Lockett (2018), King, being a proficient preacher, matched his speech tempo perfectly with his singing timbre. The manner of the utterance was primarily caused by the author’s refusal of common political calls and a turning to such a personal tale about his dream. Joseph (2020) claims that this reasoning was not spontaneous; Martin Luther King was preparing for his speech consciously because, without thoughtful preparation, it would have been impossible to transmit such brilliant words. His voice resounded so natural, confident, and at the same time simple that this reliance was instantly transmitted to everyone present, and the performance became one of the most successful in history.
Martin Luther King’s speech is an acclaimed masterwork of oratory. According to Salter (2019), this performance has all four qualities intrinsic to the great works of public speaking. One of them is eloquence; the other is enthusiasm. Each piece of address comes from the depths of the soul, from the very heart: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred” (King, 2003). The third property of King’s words Salter (2019) considers its deep content, an abundance of historical references, and examples. Finally, its fourth quality is persuasiveness, which became evident after Martin Luther King pronounced it. Thus, after many years, King’s speech does not lose its significance and strength and is still recognized as an example of oratory.
Martin Luther King’s speeches have become critical moments in American history in the struggle for racial justice. His unique utterance I have a dream is a real rhetorical masterpiece, hearing the reader can learn a lot. Emotional connection with the audience, vivid imagery, a clear structure of address that meets the primary purpose of the reasoning, and the relative simplicity of language made this King’s speech one of the most powerful in the history of oratory. In addition to the meaning of the words, which found a response and support among most American fighters for equality, the speech also has an unusual manner of storytelling and many metaphors and quotes. Thanks to the clear style of speech, every King’s word is clearly imprinted in the minds of the listeners. The address has a fantastic musicality and resembles more a prayer than an official public performance. Martin Luther King’s insistence on unity and nonviolent action in response to oppression and brutality are worthy of deep respect and long memory.
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Ford, Will and Lockett, Matt. The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America. Newtype, 2018
Joseph, Peniel. The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Basic Books, 2020
King, Martin Luther. I Have A Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World: Special 75th Anniversary Edition. HarperOne, 2003
Salter, Colin. 100 Speeches That Changed the World. Universe Publishing, 2019