On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I have a Dream speech at the event for Jobs and Freedom. A prime location to give his speech with over hundreds of thousands of people. Dr. King in this speech conveys his message of the injustice and inequality that is still happening in America due to racial bias by utilizing tools in rhetoric such as ethos, pathos, and logos to convince civilians’ revolt against the civil rights issues still taking place.
Dr. King utilizes ethos through the allusion of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address speech by using the same phrase “five score years ago, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation” (Lincoln, 234). Dr. King uses the credibility and likability along with people’s perception of Abraham Lincoln to his advantage to influence his audience. President Lincoln was a prime figure in the Civil War he fought for equality and influenced many Americans while establishing freedom or a sense of freedom. Dr. King also wanted to point out the fact that we are still not free by quoting from the Declaration of Independence and words from our founding fathers the ” we hold these truth to be evident that all men are created equal (King,4)”. A promise of sort made to all Americans and reinstate the fact that although this as a promise made to the American people. The American government has failed to uphold this and their needs to be a change.
Dr. King also uses a variety of metaphors to emphasize the injustice happening to the African Americans currently. For example, a metaphor he uses is “I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice” (King, 4). Dr. King compares injustice to the sweltering heat and then justice to an oasis. Dr. King uses the image of the summer to his audience because they understood what it entailed some examples being heat, frustration, and anger.
Dr. King also specifically mentions Mississippi which was one of the southern states known for its extreme offenses against African Americans by naming these states in the south and the oasis that’s waiting he highlights the extent of his hope for the future. Dr. King also uses allusion at the end of his speech from the famous spiritual “Free at last! Free at last! Thank god almighty were free at last” (King, 6). Which in a way signals that the people will be free one day and how strong his belief in the movement is by stating that this will happen. This can also be reiterated when he states, “the whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundation of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges” (King, 2 ). Dr. King compares what the civil rights movement will produce if their demands are not met to destruction and contrasts when they do occur to a bright day. Dr. King is representing the frustration and extreme emotions that ambush the African Americans that were promised freedom which they still have not received. This is an example which combines ethos with a little bit of pathos. Dr. King also appeals to the audience’s morals by stating “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst from freedom by drinking from
the cup of bitterness and hatred” (King,3). Where he conveys although we all want to achieve justice we should still do it the right way and the nonviolent way. We should not drop our morals to get our message across.
Next, Dr. King uses pathos in many ways one being his use of a verse from the bible to further create an emotional connection with the audience “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). Which further helped emphasize his message of unity. Dr. King utilizes many metaphors within his speech but one that he mentions is a check he states, “in a sense, we have come to our nations capital to cash a check” (King, 1). The “check” is a metaphor for the Emancipation Proclamation. Which again alludes to President Lincoln and his executive order. Dr. King also establishes emotional connection by stating that he is a father that simply wants a better future for his children ” I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation will they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character”(King,5). This statement speaks with all the parents in the audience and gains empathy. Dr king uses a parent’s love and bond with their child to further create an urgency within the parents in the audience. Parents of course want what is best for their children and Dr. King is using that and stating that we need to step up and create a better future for our children and listening to me and taking a part in this movement is a way to do that. He also uses a synecdoche by representing people as bodies and flesh. Which is reiterating the fact that all the issues that are currently being faced are simply due to skin color in the sentence “we can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies heavy with the fatigue of travel cannot gain lodging” (King,3).
Dr. King also uses logos by incorporating current events into his speech to make himself relatable to the audience and to bring everyone together through common experiences. Dr. King
appeals to his audiences’ morals and beliefs to convey the message that America is still not equal and that we as a people should not settle for this treatment. With statements like “the negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality “(King,3). Also bringing up issues such as segregation and how it strips a child’s self-esteem to see the words “whites only” which is a combination of logos and pathos because it pulls at a human’s heart strings to see what this society is doing to small children. Which in turn makes you want to do something or anything to fix their problem. He also brings up voting rights these are all real events that the audience has at one point experienced. Dr. King also continuously brings up the fact that we should not be content or be satisfied until justice is sought with a variety or rhetorical devices one being similes. For Example, he states “no no we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteous like streams” (King,4). He also continuously uses repetition to bring his point across. He repeatedly uses the phrase I have a dream to highlight the fact that this is a dream right now but will be a reality in the future.
Dr. King utilizes all these rhetorical strategies to get his point across about the injustices in America are happening simply due to the color of a person’s skin. That this minuscule difference in appearance is a reason for most of the population to treat humans’ beings so horrifically. Dr. King throughout his speech is putting towards all the facts and how this is affecting the African American population and states its time for a change. It is a call to action for everyone not to be content and to fight for equality and freedom but in the right and just way because at the end of the day we are all humans, and should all be allotted the same rights.