Martin Luther King and Barack Obama
a comparative study
‘In what ways does Barack Obama’s (2008) victory speech both echo and reshape the sentiment of Martin Luther King’s (1963) ‘I Have A Dream’ speech in terms of the American Dream? Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech mirrors the ideal concept that all men were born equal, he addresses civil rights and racial inequality in a critical view that highlights the distortion of the American Dream. Barack Obama’s victory speech also uses the idea that all people should be treated equal and delivers his speech in a patriotic manner that emphasises American pride. Both speeches embed a sense of hope and the reclamation of it through the use of compassionate language and symbolic location. In Martin Luther King’s speech, the location in which he stood and addressed his audience has a symbolic purpose. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC was where the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and portrayed to the audience that the abolishment of the slave trade was just a starting point for a far larger aspiration. Ambitions like ‘Little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls as sisters and brothers’ is used in conjunction with the repetition of ‘now’, it conveys the sense of urgency that is echoed throughout the speech and offers hope to those listening. Obama’s victory speech similarly triggers a feeling of hope in his audience as he uses passionate language and fluctuating tones. He challenges his audience to be “cynical and fearful and doubtful” of America’s colourful history and uses the accumulation of these adjectives to establish a newfound idea that America may be great but there is hope for a better future – mirroring modern context in contrast to Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’. The concept of equality is strongly associated with the true meaning of the ‘American Dream’ and is evident in both King’s and Obama’s speech. Martin Luther King has a...
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