A Testimony Of Hope By Martin Luther King English Literature Essay

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a speech, a speech that made its mark on this country's history. The speech was written to express that African Americans were tired of being mistreated and ready to fight for their freedom. His focus was not only on the freedom of African Americans, but on the freedom of all mistreated people. By assuring them with hope and comfort, different races, ethnicities, religions, and other maltreated communities united to become one strong assembly of people who were ready to stand up for themselves without violence. Although the number of King's supporters continued to grow, the unjust situation remained the same. At the time King wrote this masterpiece, most people were not willing to listen; therefore, he had to gain courage to stand up and gain the attention of those who refused to listen. To gain their attention-without violence-King decided to write a speech in such a way that it would emotionally touch the hearts of many. King's astonishing creation went down in history known as "I Have a Dream."

The speech, written by Martin Luther King Jr., was well assembled and given with great confidence as even King himself stated, "I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation" (887). Not only confident, King was highly qualified with a background in theology as he was the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the leader of many other non-violent protests. In his speech, "I Have a Dream" King used perfect structure, organization, tone, and the rhetorical appeals: pathos, ethos, and logos to effectively state his point.

The arrangement of King's Speech began with the introduction of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation as he said, "Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice" (887). Within the passage he used "beacon light of hope" and "flames of withering injustice" as he continued with a statement of how the African Americans had been treated unfairly, and concluded with his dreams of what this country could be if everyone, not just African Americans, were treated equal by reading a verse from the famous song, "My Country, 'tis of Thee" (King 890).

Analogies played an important role in making the legendary speech effective. King states, "In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check" (888). He announced to the nation that it was time for all people to receive what the forefathers of this country promised. Continuing to express his point, King says:

This note was a promise to all men, yes, black men as well as white men, and would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America as defaulted on this promissory, note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient fund. (887)

In this statement King used words like "promissory note," "bad check," and "insufficient funds" to efficiently convey his comparison to the Emancipation Proclamation (887). The African Americans were ready to cash their check and receive what they deserve; as a result, King used this as an analogy to the African Americans receiving their freedom and right to equality. Freedom and equal rights will never run out; thus, King used the correlation, "they refused to believe the bank of justice is bankrupt," to say that this country is based on the free and equal opportunities of this nation (888).

Communicating effectively to the audience was extremely important. Repetitions of words were used to make significant statements stick to one's mind. Repeated words and phrases were of key importance throughout the entire speech. The most common words used in his speech were "Now is the time" and "I have a dream" (888-89). Using "Now is the time," he preaches that they can wait no longer, freedom must be obtained, and there was no better time to act then now! To successfully motivate his people, King used the phrase, "I have a dream, that one day," to put hope into their minds that their dream will one day come true, and that one day they will be treated equally (889).

Along with the organization and arrangement of the speech, repetitions, and analogies, the rhetorical appeals: pathos, ethos, and logos were the most effective. Pathos provided an emotional appeal to the illustrious speech. He used pathos throughout the entire creation. He mentioned that the Negroes suffered injustice, police brutality, segregation, and many other things. King said, "We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating 'For Whites Only'" (888-89). Anytime children are brought to mind, emotions are always involved. Parents are protective of their children and they want the best for their children. The main focus of King's speech was to touch people emotionally to achieve their attention. By using children he achieved this because no parent wants to see their child be separated or given less opportunities than any other child in the world. Pathos was also used, as King described the life of black Americans. For example, in the sentence, "One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination," phrases such as "sadly crippled" and "chains of discrimination" provided a superior and long lasting effect on those who heard this incredible speech (King 887). It is everyone's dream to live a fulfilled life, and if that is taken away from them then it is obvious harm to their soul and emotions will result. One final example of pathos was where the speech took place. King planned for all to hear him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where memories of Abraham Lincoln and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation were fresh in everyone's mind.

Ethos proved the King's credibility in his support and also, backed up his morals and beliefs. For example, he used ethos to establish greater credibility and acceptance for all ethnicities. In the speech, he used the term "we" in order to set the grounds for his own people. Also, he made it clear that he was striving to gain their rightful place (King 887-90). Next, King gained further credibility when he referred to everyone as God's children (888). In paragraph thirteen, he said, "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed" (King 889). He also made a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation and the Declaration of Independence. These references are used effectively to prove his credibility, as he quoted Thomas Jefferson, "…all men are created equal," and referred to Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation (King 887).

Logos added logic to his speech by giving the appeal to reason. King used logos in the third and fourth paragraphs about how Blacks had the right to "cash their check" of freedom and equality. He applied logic to justify that everyone has the right to cash their check and receive their hard-earned "freedom" (King 888). King's assumptions used throughout the speech can also be considered logos. King used logic to assume the writers of the Declaration of Independence were referring to all people when they said, "…all men are created equal" (889). Also, he logically assumed that "one day" everything was going to change and that "one day" everyone would be free (King 889-90). Lastly, logic was used to believe that if everyone was given equal rights, then this country would be a great nation and everything would be perfect (King 890).

In conclusion, King's "I Have a Dream" speech was effective as you see today his assumptions were true. Today, everyone is free and equal. Through his incredible use of research, knowledge, and personal experience, King changed the minds of those who heard him that day at the Lincoln Memorial. The structure, organization, tone, and use of rhetorical appeals in his speech achieved his goals without the use of violence. King's ability to communicate persuasively changed this nation forever.