About Martin Luther King

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Many well-known speakers and debaters owe their performance to the manner in which they present their works to viewers, since the more successful the execution, the more engagement they get from the crowd. Indeed, it is from this belief that Aristotle assumed that how well a speaker responds to the audience is determined by how well they present an appealing point (Lutzke and Henggeler 1). He showed this in the form of a triangle containing the elements of signs, ethos, and pathos, which he later dubbed the rhetorical triangle. In his speech in 1963, Martin Luther King stresses that he has a dream of an American nation where there was no discrimination and where everyone is treated equally regardless of their skin color with the speaker’s success largely attributed to the use of rhetorical appeals.

The speech that is dated August 28, 1963, is arguably one of the greatest speeches from the manner in which it moved the crowd. King was so moved by the response from the crowd that he even stopped reading from his script and started preaching from his heart (King 3). In the speech, King talks about the urgency that was needed in the action stage to ensure that the people always became aware of the present in their quest for freedom. He, however, underscores that achieving this dream should not be accompanied by bitterness violence of hatred but hold their heads high in the pursuit of justice (King 1). The statement” I have a dream” is stressed in many parts of the speech to restate the speaker’s desire and invoke the real hope of the American people. It is given more emphasis and it is the basis for understanding the effectiveness of the speech in making use of the rhetorical appeals in establishing the claims.

The first primary appeal that is used in King’s speech is the appeal to reason, referred to as logos in Greek. The simplest explanation of the concept of logos is that it is the text of the argument and further involves the manner in which the narrator argues out their issue to demonstrate the speaker’s skill in reasoning (Lutzke and Henggeler 2). In the speech, there are many instances where the author uses statistics and quotations to back up the assertions made, which warrants that the issues highlighted have been researched and are credible. For example, King states, “Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation” (King 1). The logical appeal is factored in this statement because of the use of historical comparison where the speaker underscores the fact that the statements made are based on chronological assessments. He managed to use this form of appeal in getting the listeners engaged because he insisted that because of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, then there should not have been further cases of Negros being harassed based on color. It is thus apparent that the use of logical appeal is successful because it is one way Luther King established his argument in a captivating manner.

The other way of convincing the listener in the delivery of the speech was through the use of the ethical appeal though establishing character in the message. The concept is described as ethos in Greek and involves the manner in which an author or speaker institutes their role in the arguments and proves that the statements made are credible (Lutzke and Henggeler 3). They serve to underscore that element of trust because in the speech, King ensures that he creates a situation where he believes that the argument is reasonable and well-informed and because they believe in it, so should the audience. He states that “When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent. words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing· a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir” (King 1). The impression that is created by this statement is that the opinion that the speaker has was shared by expert authorities and he is not making up his wishes. It also implies that King was knowledgeable and aware that the rights he was advocating for were defined in the law and in the process enabled the listeners to connect the quest for freedom and the statement in the constitution. Overall, therefore, the use of the appeal to character ensures that the readers and listeners of the speech identify the trust in the message and thus consent to it as they can trust the speaker.

Another key factor of the rhetorical appeals used in the 1963 speech is the use of pathos, which entails the consideration of the appeal to emotions in engaging the audience actively. It is based on the principle that through the incorporation of the emotional appeal, it is possible for the audience to make a decision that is based a logical argument as their emotions will be involved (Lutzke and Henggeler 1). In making use of this strategy, the speaker on several occasions retells a story and creates specific examples that the listeners can relate to in their normal lives. In one instance, he begins restating the tortures and harassment that were common at the time in the hands of authorities because of the segregation and Jim Crow laws. Luther asserts, “Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality” (4). In making this statement, the speaker intends to make use sympathetic imagination to enable the audience to realize that they are victims and hence the need for action and fighting for their rights. It is a successful strategy that is common in large sections of the speech with other cases involving the speaker mentioning that he desires a country where his children ill live without having to worry that they will be discriminated based on color. All these features enable the speaker to success immensely in the delivery of his message of the American dream because he captures the audience’ emotions and places the listeners in a context where they relate emotionally to him.

In summary, it is worth underscoring that the presentation of the speech I have a Dream by Martin Luther King is largely founded on the use of appeals to reason, emotion, and character. The three rhetorical strategies constitute a tone of urgency because, in an integrative manner, the audience feels that there is a need to join the speaker in the dream of a free nation where there is no discrimination. Thus, the speaker was successful in the delivery of the speech because the audience ended up trusting him, making correlations to the historical processes such as the establishment of the constitution, and eventually consent to the idea because of being emotionally involved.

Works Cited

King, Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream.” 1963. Web.

Lutzke, Jaclyn, and Mary F. Henggeler. “The Rhetorical Triangle: Understanding and Using Logos, Ethos, and Pathos.” University Writing Center (2009): n. pag. Web.

January 18, 2023
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