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I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal (2), Dr. Martin Luther King voices. He was an ambitious man who had a vision, one in which he envisioned the possibility for change in the lives of the African Americans. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1929, Dr. King strived to be an accomplished public speaker just like his father was. Being as intelligent as he was, he quickly moved from high school to college and later received his PhD at the age of 26. While he was in school, Dr. King studied the work of Mahatma Gandhi and was influenced by his nonviolent approach to freedom. Using this method to fight for equal rights in America, the Civil Rights Movement was born. During his lifetime, Dr. King worked hard to organize bus boycotts and ensure the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act in support to rise against discrimination. These actions eventually lead to the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, where Dr. King leads the Americans to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Here, King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech, in which he aims towards the entire nation. In order to give his audience a better understanding of the hate that is spreading, he uses emphasis within his speech by creating antitheses, using metaphors, and repetitive language.
Throughout his speech, Dr. King applies the rhetorical device, antithesis, in order to stir upon his audience's emotion. An example of this can be observed in the third paragraph of his speech, in which he states, "One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity" (1). In this statement, King contrasts "lonely island" with "vast ocean" and "poverty" with "prosperity" in order to exemplify the black's current place in society. Through the use of these contrasting ideas, he is able to illustrate a vivid image of the difficult times the blacks were faced with, thus allowing his audience to grasp a strong feeling of sentiment towards the Negros. Towards the beginning of his speech, in the fifth paragraph, another use of an antithesis can be found. He recites, "Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial justice to the solid rock of brotherhood" (1). In other words, Dr. King declares that this nation needs to stop trying to justify a means to the inequality and finally establish a new foundation where everyone will be to stand firm as equals. He signals that now is the right time to rise above discrimination against African Americans and become a country where citizens are united and treated equally. By emphasizing the crucial need for change and showing strong determination in seeking equality for all, he instills onto his audience feels of hope and excitement. The use of antithesis in his speech contributes in allowing Dr. King to deliver a truly impacting and memorable speech. Not only does he use antitheses to evoke emotion, he also repeats key words and phrases to connect with his audience.
Dr. King uses another stylistic technique called metaphor to establish pathos. In the sixth paragraph of his speech, he states, "The sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality" (1). This statement is said after the example which discusses the topic of injustice, and it begins the rest of the essay on how black people will not stop until they get what is rightfully theirs, equal rights. Through the words "the sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent," King depicts an image of the blacks in frustration, suffering, and restlessness as they long for relief. He then uses the words "an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality" to provide an illustration of the slaves being released from the leash of the oppression set by the whites and their laws. This also stirs upon the emotions of happiness in the blacks. Another example of a metaphor being used is in the statement, "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" (1).When Dr. King mentions "a great beacon of light of hope," he makes an allusion to the Emancipation Proclamation saying that it was a hope for the beginning of a substantial change in the lives of Negro slaves. As he goes on to say "seared in the flames of withering injustice," King aims to exemplify the injustice brought onto the slaves. King's use of metaphor helps is allowing his audience to have a vivid concept in what he is trying to address. Along with the use of comparisons, Dr. King also incorporates repetitive language to stir emotions of his audience.
Dr. King connects with his audience emotionally through use of repetition. In the beginning of his speech, he stresses with passion:
"But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still 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 languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land" (1).
He repeats "one hundred years later" four times to emphasize that even after one hundred years from Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, little change has been made in the lives of African-Americans. Furthermore, he continues to stress the negativity and brutality of the white people. By saying "segregation" and "discrimination" and "exile," Dr. King shows repetitiveness in his attempt to stir emotions from his audience. He uses these words to induce anger and frustration within African-Americans by explaining the harsh standards that the white people have left them to live under. He also evokes anger and frustration in the white people by making them realize their immoral behavior and making them feel guilty for their wrongdoings.
In Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, King seeks for justice and stops at nothing to fulfill the dreams of all black men to be free of racial injustice and live in a world of freedom and equality. He expresses his position on the matter on an emotional level and reaches to his fellow African Americans' emotions to persuade them to fight for the justice they seek. By creating tension, implying comparison, and repeating key words and phrases, Dr. King instills feelings of anger, frustration, hope, and happiness in the blacks and, at the same time, fills whites with guilt, hatred, and fury. In doing so, King influences his audience to take action and fight for their chance at freedom and equality. Without King's determination to eliminate the injustice of segregation, we would not be where we are today, a place of unity.