32 years and 364 days before my birth, at Lincoln Memorial over 275,000 people gathered and listened to Dr. Martin Luther King deliver his speech “I Have a Dream.” During this time, racism was a huge issue in the United States, especially towards African Americans. Among those African Americans was Dr. Martin Luther King, a prominent civil rights activists who inspires our world till this day, especially with his speech “I Have a Dream.” He spoke about the injustices of segregation and discrimination of African Americans that was taking place in our nation.
The reason for “I Have a Dream” massive impact is due to the tense social mood of the time and giving African Americans a vision for the future. Hitting home for many African American people but what made “I Have a Dream” so fascinating that even a 16 years Asian American can relate to? I believe it is King’s use of rhetoric and how he is able to appeal to his audiences’ everyday lives. King uses the structure of his rhetoric to appeal to his different audiences and supporting his ideas by using quotations and allusions, repeating key theme words and phrases, and “grounding” his arguments.
The syntax of a speech can be very important, something that King utilizes really well appealing to all three types of people in his audience; the average blacks who are discriminated against, the average whites who harbor thoughts typical of that time who argue that blacks are evil and the civil rights movement is violent, and radical blacks who think the same. He first starts by making the white realize how blacks are in such a terrible positions and make them feel bad of what they have done, but at the same time hitting home in the hearts of blacks. He goes on explaining problems “One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years..”
Striking home for many African Americans but at the same time causing the whites to be uncomfortable. King then brings in issues about the Declaration of Independence by saying “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Then goes on saying that America has denied us of these right. His ability to appeal to his audience really amazed because when you put into perspective of how the people of the time interpreted the speech and to me the message was loud and clear; segregation must end.
King also perpetrates his speech with careful thoughts and analysis, a key example of this was King’s utilization of quotations and allusions. He starts out the his speech by invoking the presence of Lincoln, not just with his location but with this “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the emancipation proclamation.” This is a strong appeal to ethos and using Lincoln’s credibility to create credibility for himself. Then he moves on to the Constitution with “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” this is also and an appeal to ethos that relates to every American. His use of allusions and quotations didn’t just revolve around the 16th president and the constitution it also reached out in a biblical manner as well. “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.“ he evokes Jeremiah 2:13. Similar to this the other biblical terms enhance his credibility and builds a relationship with the common whit population that reads the bible.
As for me the text was not as powerful but when King delivered the line “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” the idea of freedom in my mind became privilege and made me cherish it much more. King like many other juniors in the 21st century learned a rhetorical device known as anaphora, a skill that only King can make history with. King uses this device 8 times throughout his speech but the most memorable of all is near the end of the speech where he starts with “I Have a Dream…” The line that will stick with generations to come and may have been the reason why Dr. King was assassinated. Though we can grieve over Dr. King’s death but I would rather take the time and analyze why his use of anaphora was so powerful. I believe the lines he used in the formation of his anaphora: “One hundred years later…”, “Now is the time…”, “We must…”, “We can never be satisfied…”, “I Have a Dream…”, “With this faith, …”, and “Let freedom ring (from) …”, can tell us much of King’s stories and the emphasis through repetition makes these phrases more memorable, and, by extension, make King’s story more memorable.
What King also did was the repetition of “theme” words such as freedom (repeated 20 times), nation (10 times), and America (9 times). This style of writing will be one of the many lessons I will be taking away from this speech. The last I think the most important rhetorical device that King used was his ability to “ground his arguments. King accomplished this by making numerous geographic references throughout the speech. Including Mississippi, New York, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Colorado, California, and Tennessee. King uses Mississippi in many occasions to evoke emotions in the blacks because African Americans in Mississippi where treated the worse among all the states and I believe the best line king used was this “We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.” Encouraging and informing all American citizens of the predicament that is occurring in the great nation of America.
This created reliability among the people and connected them even more. Although racism isn’t as large an issue today Dr. King’s speech “I Have a Dream” managed to inspire a generation of blacks to never give up and made thousands of white Americans bitterly ashamed of their actions, forging a new start for society. Even now, it continues to make generations of people, not just Americans, to give up their racist beliefs and advocate social colorblindness. King’s speech not only had amazing content, but the structure and king’s effective uses of quotations and allusions, use of repeating key theme words and phrases, and “grounding” his arguments. Taught me a very valuable lesson in both rhetoric and life. Thus from now on I have a dream as well. it is to develop myself and my rhetoric device using.