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Rhetorical Analysis of "i Have a Dream" Speech

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Rhetorical Analysis of "I Have a Dream" Speech

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the United States most influential people of all time. He was a clergymen, activist, and leader of the African American civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership brought him to the March on Washington, which was where the "I Have a Dream" speech was held. Public perception was drastically altered on the civil right movement and he established himself as one of the most influential orators of all time. King spoke of a future where blacks and whites can equally coexist. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he delivered the speech before 200,000 civil right supporters. The speech is considered to be one of the greatest speeches in American history. It was ranked in the top American speeches of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address. The evidence of strength was supported in Martin Luther King's speech by using one of Aristotle's rhetoric beliefs, logos. According to Aristotle's beliefs, there are three modes of persuasion, which are ethos, pathos, and logos. Following Aristotle's rhetoric, if one is going to be an effective writer these modes of persuasion must be present. King incorporated these modes of persuasion in his "I Have a Dream" speech very powerfully. Without the use of ethos, pathos, and logos, Martin Luther King's speech may not have been as influential as it has been.

Out of the three modes of persuasion, King used ethos as his dominant rhetoric. Ethos is a person's credibility or ethical appeal. When he quoted words from the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence it supported his equality argument for all citizens. He was not only speaking the African Americans that was before him but, too all other ethnicities that were not present. In the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution it is clearly stated that everyone deserves the same respect and that everyone, regardless of color, should be equal in life. For instance, a quote by King:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. 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.'

This provides support to his statement that equal rights should be with everyone and the United States should not disobey the writing that was in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. He also used the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation as a credibility example in his speech. Saying that slaves were given freedom but, to that day they were lacking the freedom he dreamed of. King provided us with this quote:

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

He believed that African-Americans had falsely been given their freedoms and was protesting their unfair treatment.




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