About a speech - Research Paper Example

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Soufiane Nour Segovia English 102 5 April 2011 I Have a Dream The civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963. In this powerful and inspirational speech, King uses allusions and repetition to convey his message of how America has “defaulted” (2710) on its promise to its citizens…
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Soufiane Nour Segovia English 102 5 April I Have a Dream The civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963. In this powerful and inspirational speech, King uses allusions and repetition to convey his message of how America has “defaulted” (2710) on its promise to its citizens. Many of these allusions refer to words written in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence—as King calls these documents a “promissory note” which “guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (2710). King claims that America has defaulted on this promise—an example of logos within his speech. Furthermore, he uses pathos and logos to effectively appeal to the audiences. King’s repetition of the phrase “I have a dream” is intended to emphasize his dream of equality for African Americans. To that end, within his speech King incorporates metaphors and vivid imagery in the hopes that even a place like Mississippi, “a state sweltering with the heat of injustice … [and] oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice” (2712). Martin Luther King, Jr. attended segregated schools in Georgia. In 1948, he received his Bachelor’s of Arts from Morehouse College. After study theology at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, he enrolled at Boston University, where he received his doctorate. In Boston he met his wife, Coretta Scott. In 1954 King became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. At this time he was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). King was always an advocate of civil rights, and in December 1955 he became the leader of the first nonviolent Negro demonstration, the bus boycott in Montgomery that lasted 382 days. A year later the Supreme Court ruled the law of segregation on buses unconstitutional, and blacks and whites were able to ride the bus as equals. During this time King was subjected to violence, personal abuse, and arrested for his attempts to bring about equality, but he still emerged as a prominent Negro leader. The March on Washington in 1963 was intended to bring more attention to the inequality that existed for the Negro in America. During that event, King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., a site which perfectly ties in to the subject matter of his speech. Since Lincoln was the President who freed the slaves during the Civil War, it is both appropriate and effective that the speech be delivered there. This location serves to underscore the point of the speech—that freedom for all men is unequivocally necessary and just. The speech’s timing is also important: it was delivered at the height of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Undoubtedly, the “I Have a Dream” speech influenced political policy in the United States because the following year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, which ended racial segregation. Throughout his speech, King uses many rhetorical devices to get his point across. One of the most visible elements in “I Have a Dream” is King’s use of allusions to credible sources throughout the course of American history. These allusions serve to highlight the fact that our nation’s critical founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution proclaim equality and justice for all American citizens. Yet, as King points out throughout his speech, these rights had not been extended to the Negro despite the passage of supposedly “equalizing” amendments to the United States Constitution: the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, which legally and permanently abolished slavery, and the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, which guaranteed black men the right to vote. The use of allusions illustrates the connection between historical events and the crisis of inequality occurring at that time. For example, King points out that his speech comes “[f]ive score years” (2710) after Lincoln’s famous delivery of the Gettysburg Address—the use of “score” to mark the passage of time mirrors Lincoln’s own language. He goes on to say that though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed to free African Americans, it was now a full century later and the Negro was still not completely free. In addition to historical allusions, King also makes several Biblical references throughout the speech and quotes from songs such as the anthem “America” and a Negro spiritual. He states that one day, “all of God’s children” will celebrate being “[f]ree at last” (2713). King even delves into literary allusions, turning Shakespeare’s famous quote about “the winter of our discontent” from Richard III into a stirring metaphor that equates black citizens’ “legitimate discontent” to summer and freedom to “an invigorating autumn” (2711). This is not the only case of metaphor in “I Have a Dream.” In fact, King uses metaphors judiciously throughout the speech. Metaphors are used to illustrate the likeness of two different things. This allows King to take abstract ideas and make them relatable and relevant to his audience. He compares slavery to “flames of withering injustice” (2710). He uses bondage terminology in describing segregation and discrimination as “manacles” and “chains” (2710). He uses monetary language in labeling the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence a “promissory note” to the American people and claims that when it comes to black Americans, the United States “defaulted” on that promise and the black citizens of the country were given a “bad check” by the government (2710). King uses another metaphor to explain to the audience that Negroes need to stand together to overcome racial segregation and injustice. King says that those interested in equality, both black and white, must “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice” (2710). It is important to note that King’s metaphors emerge in a parallel structure, which is ultimately very effective. King uses parallelism to compare his views with his ideas for a better future. Parallelism is used to clarify and compare; it also paints a picture of a future of equality for his audience. The use of all of these metaphors is effective and makes his argument much clearer for listeners. King uses anaphora, or repetition of certain words and phrases, in order to emphasize his main points and highlight the purpose of his speech. Anaphora is used almost from the beginning of King’s speech. For example, the phrase “Now is the time” (2710) is repeated four times to emphasize the importance of the Negro standing up against discrimination and segregation. The best and most blatant example is, of course, the phrase “I have a dream” (2712) which is repeated eight times as King tries to paint the picture of a unified America, a picture in which blacks and whites are unquestionably equal. While the speech is undeniably a masterpiece of rhetorical power, King’s assertion that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were intended as “a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed” the same rights (2710) is a logical fallacy. These documents were crafted by white men with no foresight of or consideration for the eventual granting of citizenship to the descendents of slaves. Therefore, it is an assumption on King’s part that the Founding Fathers intended these documents to preserve the rights of “all” citizens, because while historical figures like George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson may have been truly great men with nothing less than honorable intentions for their newly-formed country, some of them were also wealthy slave holders and had little or no interest in ensuring the same freedoms for their slaves—who were not so much “men” as they were “property”—as for themselves. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s rhetorical style is authoritative, convincing, heartfelt, passionate, and intelligent. His words are formidable and convincing and, in the end, they invoke the desired result in his audience by inflaming the listener’s passion and desire for justice and equality. Not only that, but the structure of the speech and its professions of religious and spiritual faith make the speech seem almost like a sermon, giving listeners the sense that King is not trying to politicize the issue of equality but is instead preaching honest, simple, and all-too-human truth—a fitting comparison, considering King’s position as a minister and a devout man of faith. Because of King’s brilliant writing, rhetorical skills, and true belief in his subject, the “I Have a Dream” speech remains one of the most memorable and notable speeches ever delivered on American soil. Works Cited King, Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have a Dream.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. 2710- 2713. Print. Read More
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