Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King's "Beyond Vietnam: a Time to Break Silence"
English 1102 TR, 8:25
2 February 2013
A Time to do What is Right
In Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam—A Time to Break Silence” (1967), Dr. King asserts that the war in Vietnam is totally immoral and has far reaching negative implications not only for Vietnam, but for The United States and the rest of the World as well. Dr. King’s purpose is to make the church leaders he is speaking to aware that the time has come for them to speak out loudly in opposition of the war in Vietnam. He offers many practical reasons for the opposition, as well as spiritual and moral reasons. He then outlines the history of the war in Vietnam, showing that he is not simply preaching about religious ideals. He also makes an emotional plea by vividly describing the conditions in Vietnam.
Dr. King plainly states his purpose near the beginning of his speech. It is clear that he wants the audience of church leaders to go back to their churches and fearlessly speak out in opposition of the war. With an urgent tone, he repeats the phrase, “we must speak…” (4), several times. This use of repetitive language conveys urgency and shows that he deeply believes the churches may influence the government if they speak against the war. He does not want the church leaders to simply listen to his message. He wants them to go back to their churches and spread the message. Dr. King says, “Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war” (3). This demonstrates to the audience that he realizes it is going to be difficult for them to speak out in opposition of the government. It is not typical for churches to do so. However, he is about to arm them with many valid reasons why it is crucial for them to join the opposition.
His first reasons are all about practicality. Dr. King says that the war is draining valuable resources that could be helping the poor in our own