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Speech Analysis: Mrtin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' Speech

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1290 words Published: 12th Nov 2020

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Name of the speaker:   Martin Luther king Jr.

Main Idea:     Racial Equality and End to Discrimination.

Date:     August 28 1963.

Time:      Mid-Day.

Location of the speech:  Steps of Lincoln memorial Washington DC USA.

Effective speaking means the ability to say what you want to say in such a way that the audience is motivated to listen and act upon what is heard. Effective speaking cuts across all works of life. It is important in relating with employees or managing children’s behavior. Martin Luther King Jr. is known to be one of the greatest speakers in America’s history and his words rings aloud in the minds of those who heard him speak. His words trigger hope and a call to action. A total contrast is a speech by President Donald Trump on February 22nd 2016 (Las Vegas) with rhetoric inciting violence and some supporters actually carrying through.

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On August 28, 2019, King gave the famous “I Have a Dream” Speech on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. The speech was focused on racial equality and end to racial discrimination.  King spoke from a podium with multiple microphones. He appeared well-groomed and was dressed appropriately.  He was introduced as “the moral leader”. At the beginning, he referred to his outline but at the later part of the speech he spoke like one who has well-rehearsed his speech or better still bursting with passion and speaking from the heart. King was full of energy from the start. He began by saying he was happy to be part of the “greatest demonstration” and predicted that the speech will go down in history as a milestone in the civil rights movement. To draw the attention of crowd, he made reference to Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address. Since he was speaking from the steps of Lincoln memorial, those words of allusion were received very well. To maintain the attention of crowd, he repeated key words of his speech especially “I have a dream”. In a speech of 17 minutes he used words like “freedom” twenty times and “dream” eleven times.  He used appropriate quotations throughout the speech. These quotations were either taken directly from important documents like The Bible, Declaration of Independence and quotes of Abraham Lincoln. He also used many important cities and locations in the speech to draw and maintain the attention of the crowd. King used proper grammar and was eloquent throughout his speech. The 17 minutes was devoid of fillers. The combination of all these elements made the speech one of the most effective speeches in history. Above all, it is the truthful and honest personality of Dr Martin Luther King which made the event memorable and a turning point in civil rights movement for Black Americans.

The Main points of the speech were skillfully organized. King used rhetorical method to highlight main phrases like “I have a dream”. While Analyzing the text and video of this speech, I noticed   logically sentences like “one hundred years later”, “now is the time”, “I have a dream” and “Let freedom Ring” etc. He used momentous and legendary references in a beautifully arranged sequence starting from Gettysburg address, Declaration of Independence and The Bible. He supported and related the facts while contrasting events in civil rights struggle with “joyous daybreak” in The Bible. He made a remark about “sweltering summer” of Negros and many other contrasts. He made reference to slavery of Negros, injustice, faith in democracy, freedom and voting rights in Mississippi.  His speech was interwoven, uniform, strategic and well organized.

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King’s delivery of this speech was very impressive. It is considered one of the most impressive speeches in American history. The personality of speaker was readily accepted by the crowd. He was a leader of millions. He spoke every word bursting with confidence, truthfulness and sincerity. He was speaking for a very noble cause therefore used very powerful and convincing gestures. His speech was emotional yet balanced and logical. His gestures suited the occasion and he never crossed limits of decency. Although speaking from a very powerful pedestal, he remained very civilized and noble. He never uttered words of disrespect to those who have humiliated and enslaved black communities. His audience comprised of 250,000 people, however he fully managed the crowd and never excited them beyond limit. His voice was stable, his tone was firm and his message was loud and clear. His speech is referred as a classic example of expression public speaking.

The reaction of the audience to the speech was electric. The crowd comprised almost a quarter million civil rights activists and millions of people on television. King’s speech was very well received and considered a turning point in the civil rights movement. He was a seasoned preacher who applied all the rubrics of an effective speaker. Till date, his speech still impacts listeners.  King spoke in a tone that was steady, slow but energetic. It appears as though his audience absorbed his speech word for word. So many times, the crowd cheered, applauded and praised during his speech. When he mentioned the similarity of Negro case with a bad cheque, the crowd raised a lot of noise in affirmation. Throughout the speech, the crowd remained attentive, affirmative and receptive.

The conclusion of speech was the most forceful part of the speech. King ended the speech with these words: “From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when this happens, when we allowfreedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”. These words had a magical impact on the audience. The conclusion was very effective in text, gesture, tone and delivery. The conclusion was the climax of speech and made audience rise from their seats. By the time his seventeen minutes speech was ending and the crowd already expected the speech to come to an end. However, the speech ended on a high note.

The personality of the speaker and his commitment to the cause made a strong impact on the audience. King used historical, religious and literary references appropriately and timely. He also used the pause mechanism to provide room for audience reaction. His speech unfolded in a logical order and appeared well interwoven. Nothing came up in his speech abruptly; everything matched the occasion. King also used power phrases to make the speech a memorable one. His speech was drawn out of a strong ideological base and contained names of places and events which are well known to the crowd and has a symbolic meaning to them.

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