Political activity has always played a special role in the life of society. Through their speeches, political leaders have the opportunity to appeal to both the international community and citizens of their country. Politicians speeches should not only inform the audience about any aspect of public life but also persuade listeners to take a certain position as well as gain the support of the citizens. Analyzing Martin Luther King Jr.s famous speech I Have a Dream, it is possible to identify the strategies and tactics of argumentation, which he used, and establish the most effective ways of influence on the audience mindset.


Martin Luther King conducted it on August 28, 1963, near Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and stated that the purpose of this march is to demand strong forthright civil rights legislation (Hansen, 2003, p. 16). It was the most important moment of the American Civil Rights Movement of the period 1955-1968. In his speech, King praised racial reconciliation in the modern society and tried to redefine the essence of the American democratic dream (the American Dream) as well as reinforce its spiritual fire.

He appeals to religious Christian philosophy and oratorical speech imagery causing an enthusiastic response from his audience. In terms of the force of Kings speech persuasiveness, it is necessary to represent his attitude to the way of presenting the text to the audience in relation to the speaker notes. Dr. Harold L.de Warren, one of Kings teachers who was a doctoral student at Boston United States University (1954), asked him about the importance of textual aid in the process of his public addresses and received the following answer: I never read a sermon. Without a manuscript, I can communicate better with an audience. Furthermore, I have greater rapport and power when I am able to look the audience in the eye (Gallagher, 2002). It is clear that in his political speeches he did not use writing support in the case of appeal to people from the Protestant, otherwise, liturgical-sacramental preaching, type of oratorical speech. In general, the overall process of speech preparation and Kings attitude to public addresses show that the deep authors devotion to the values and believes he proclaimed mostly determined the degree of persuasiveness of his speech.

The initial idea of the speech is to call the audience to action providing the clear evidence of the social inferiority. Therefore, the composition and oratory of Kings speech reflect the pragmatic setting of the author to describe state of things in the field of race relations in the United States, denounce segregation on the basis of color on the one hand as well as define the struggle for political and social equality of all citizens as a way of freedom and democracy (in the way it is understood in the USA) in order to realize the American dream on the other side. One can see that the speech is organized in mixed composition. The general structure of the text implies the characteristics of problem/solution composition.

The extensive introductory part (the problematic one) is in the nature of social and political appeal to the audience that represents the main causes of Afro-Americans dissatisfaction with their social positions and evidence that shows why this dissatisfaction is not unjustified: But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free (King, 1963). The second part of the speech that can be considered as a kind of expected solution is directly devoted to the presentation of Kings dream: With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood (King, 1963). In addition, the first and second parts are both organized in the listing composition way in order to present the range of difficulties that the problem and expected social virtues that could become real in case of solution determine. With the help of listing, King provided the wide variety of examples that were to convince the audience. At last, comparing two parts of the speech, it is important to note that the speaker wanted to appeal to the audience using strong comparison/contrast structure: the first part, which explores the social inferiority, is provided as a contrast to the second part considering the depiction of the light future, which the general brotherhood maintains. Such diversity of the speech composition types provides the opportunity for depiction the wide range of issue that is necessary to highlight in terms of determination of audience inspiration for the further civil right movement.

The second part of the speech can also be stated as its culmination. After the words rooted in the American dream, he puts aside the prepared text of the speech and says in the same breath his inspired oratorio I Have a Dream (King, 1963). King expresses inspirational eulogy of hope for the brighter future of individuals, raises a passionate song of freedom of the American people as it is understood in the United States, glorifies the future of compatriots with a sacred ballad about Gods children united in spirit according to the motive of famous African-American spirituals the anthem Free at last: With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood (King, 1963). In this part, one can find the concept of American Dream that is familiar for each American as the sign of equal opportunities for everyone regardless race, age, and culture.

The audience the speech is delivered to determines its tone. The overall tone can be related to the inspirational, believing, and devoted. Its main aim is to determine social activity and help people (especially Afro-Americans) to realize their dignity and right for better future. Phrases like Now is a time, We refuse to believe, We cannot walk alone approach this tone (King, 1963). The words mentioned above are to call to action the inferior nation and determine its struggle. Although the general impression from the speech tends to convey the felling of strong and peremptory position due to sharp phrases with radical vocabulary (Negro, refuse, revolt, fierce urgency), the speech has balanced and moderate mood. One can note that King achieves this appealing to the white brothers. Regardless the uncompromising intention for struggle, he does not forget about basic human values and denies every possibility of cruelty and violence: Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred (King, 1963). Such position involves white people into conversation too. It helps not only to address the subordinated classes but also attract the attention of those who provide such conditions. However, the peaceful intention of massage together with highly expressive tone provide deep convictional force that is able to unite people of different races in their attempts to build equal society based on respect and dignity and not on the force superiority.

The distinctive usage of literary devices maintains the structure and tone of the speech. The professor of the Hamilton College said that the main thing that strikes in Kings speech is the use of metaphors that creates vivid images (Landphair, 2010). With the help of metaphors and other devices, King introduces the wide range of socially important issues in terms of struggle for equality. He emphasizes the role and significance of the Emancipation Proclamation, which President A. Lincoln signed 30/12/1862, in the history of United States using comparison and metaphor: It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity (King, 1963). Describing numerous facts of racial segregation, King uses anaphora one hundred years ago in order to enhance the deep roots of the racial injustice and its present state. Talking about the unification of all the citizens of all the states and parts of the USA in opposition to the universal injustice, the author uses metaphors, for example, the following: Let us not wallow in the valley of despair (King, n.d.). One more example of the figurative language is observed in terms of authors discussion of readiness to meet the challenges and defeats on the way of standing for the liberation and democratic foundation of life of the nation; there is a metaphor: the veterans of creative suffering (King, 1963). Talking about American Democracy, he uses the metaphor bank of justice (King, 1963). These and other devices create a distinguished picture that strikes the audience and appealing to its emotions reinforces the sense of national dignity.

It is important to emphasize the fact that the personality of the speaker also determines the credibility of the evidence used in the speech. Martin Luther King Jr. is a well-known African-American Baptist preacher, Doctor of Theology (Boston University, 1955), one of the most prominent speakers in the history of world art of eloquence, leader of the Movement for US civil rights of the black population, and the youngest awardee in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize (1964). In his speech, there are no statistics but rather facts that are presented in the form of assumptions i.e. factual assumptions since he does not tend to prove the facts that are represented considering them as well-known evidence. Such factual assumptions are of the explicit character as they are presented directly: Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality, Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation (King, 1963). All the facts about Afro-Americans humiliation are not maintained with the help of the sources of information because Kings personality is enough to believe in their truth. The author claims that nation equality is a primary virtue of democratic country, and providing the evidence about Negro segregation he makes this claim fair and justified. In order to inspire the audience, King uses hypothetical evidence providing the possible future in the form of dream. Such evidence helps to create a perspective that supports believes and intentions of the audience. Although facts of Afro-Americans segregation were widely known for the time of the speech, there still were some positive attitudes towards them from the side of white people. In order to enhance the feeling of injustice and represent the racial problem from the point of view of Afro-Americans, positive moments in American policy regarding it were omitted.

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M. L. King Jr.s speech is an inspired overflowing monologue, a detailed statement of one person. All stylistic devices and composite elements are subordinated to the main idea and key pragmatic goal to call for national unity in the face of socio-political challenges of the 20th century. Therefore, Kings speech is considered as the remarkable piece of oratory that determined further state policy in terms of overcoming racial segregation.

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