Famous Speeches Analysis

Topics: I Have a Dream, Martin Luther King, Jr., Education Pages: 11 (2517 words) Published: November 18, 2014





This speech was Martin Luther King Jr.'s most iconic and influential speeches. Delivered to a large gathering to civil rights marchers, this speech's purpose was to press the US government for racial equality. At this point in history, "black" Americans were strongly racially targeted particularly in the southern states. Laws in these particular states forcibly segregated coloured and white Americans; thus introducing the formation of ghettos. Americans who attempted to stand up for equality risked facing attacks from Ku Klux Klansmen, who bombed homes and churches.


Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist who had a prominent impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Through his activism, he played a crucial role in concluding the legal ghettoization of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the establishment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most glorified African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, "I Have a Dream."


The power of the speech was arguably down to the delivery as much as the content. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech was 17 minutes long, yet is best remembered for the few moments where he pushed aside his papers and in a soaring voice painted an stimulating picture of a future America. Martin Luther King's speechwriter Clarence B Jones confirmed in his book Behind the Dream the final section of the speech was off-script, after King gave himself over "to the spirit of the moment." This final section contained rhetorics, which questioned themes personally close to all Americans; hence touching every listener.

His body language and tone was charismatic, encouraging and visionary. His strong and determined tone reinvigorated the marchers and eventually captivated the nation. Martin Luther King's pauses after each respective point allowed the audience time to take in the information. His hand gestures allowed him to be able to physically as well as verbally communicate his point. King's change in tone, pitch and speed throughout his speech allowed him to be able to encourage the audience and portray emotion effectively.


Writing in the journal American Heritage Dr. Clayborne Carson (history professor at Stanford University and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute) said:

"The genius of King's I Have a Dream speech lay not in his originality but in the way he expressed ideas better than those from whom he borrowed. In turn his words have informed the oratory of subsequent generations of American political leaders."

The speech appealed to all of the American Society including white liberals, poor black southerners, and the international community. His personal portrayal as a quintessentially American leader pursuing American goals appealed to northern liberals.


The force of King's speech is developed throughout audacious statements and rhythmic repetition. Each repetition develops and strengthens the one before and is fortified by Martin Luther King's ever growing desire.

"WE CAN NEVER BE SATISFIED AS LONG AS the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. WE CAN NEVER BE SATISFIED AS LONG AS our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. WE CANNOT BE SATISFIED AS LONG AS the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

"GO BACK TO Mississippi, GO BACK TO Alabama, GO BACK TO South Carolina…"

"WITH THIS FAITH, WE WILL BE ABLE TO hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. WITH...
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