I Have a Dream

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Martin Luther King Jr.'s Speech, "I Have a Dream'
Marsha Spainhour
Sandhills Community College
Public Speaking
Kathleen Kruska
November 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Speech, "I Have a Dream'
The true test of a speech is born of its immediate impact and its long-term value as a rhetorical document. It is a small wonder that only a few speeches transcend their own moment in history and become resonant literature. One such speech is Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Certainly, Martin Luther King’s most famous public address contains many memorable passages that spoke significant truths about the United States at the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, but more importantly, the speech delivers three ideas that still have relevance today. Several primary drivers of inequality existed prior to the Civil Rights Movement gaining momentum and eventually forcing American’s to accept unparalled levels of equality for African Americans. Three such drivers were the pre-existing conditions of segregation, discrimination, and poverty the African Americans endured. In Martin Luther King’s Speech, “I Have a Dream”, he stated, “the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation.” Racial segregation was a system derived from the efforts of white Americans to keep African Americans in a subordinate status by denying them equal access to public facilities and ensuring that blacks lived apart from whites. African Americans were excluded from seats on public transportation and barred their entry, except as servants, from most hotels and restaurants. When allowed into auditoriums and theaters, blacks occupied separate sections and also attended segregated schools. Most churches, too, were segregated. African Americans also suffered through great acts of discrimination. In Martin Luther King’s speech, he states “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their skin but by the content of their character.” African Americans were largely denied education and personal advancement, jobs, and entrance to most public places because of the color of their skin. Poverty was another condition that needed change. In Dr. King’s speech, he stated “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. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.” African Americans were forced to work and live in some of the most undesirable conditions. For many people today, Dr. King’s speech contains three messages that still have practical application to modern life or to a modern audience. Dr. King stated “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.” This part of his speech speaks to an impassioned plea of forgiveness and acceptance of letting the past be the past so long as equality was accepted and gained for all African Americans to enjoy. Forgiveness is timeless it is just as applicable in the year 2012 as it was in 1963. We still live in an era where ethnic and religious differences lead to hostility and warfare as evidenced by the recent bombing of the World Trade Centers by jihadist Muslims bent on destroying our Christian religion. Dr. King would undoubtedly hope to see the day where all Muslims and Christians could sit at the same table of brotherhood and forgive one another for their misdeeds. In his speech he also stated, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord...
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