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"I have a dream"
Transcript of "I have a dream"
Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and it is a means of convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader. Dr. King utilizes ethos by invoking the authority of Abraham Lincoln and The Declaration of Independence, and by establishing his own character credibility.
Dr. King delivered his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, analogizing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address with the line, "Five score years ago, a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation." Not only was Lincoln a highly respected President, but he held the trust of the American people. He lead them through the civil war and into a new sense of freedom, while making the first significant steps towards eradicating racial injustice. Dr. King's references to President Lincoln brought an element of authority and credibility to his speech.
The Declaration of Independence
Dr. King is able to establish his own credibility by siding with and referencing the supreme authority that is the Deceleration of Independence. In reference to this Dr. King said, "This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the 'Unalienable Rights' of 'Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness'." The Declaration of Independence is the foundation on which this great nation was built, and likewise Dr. King uses it as the foundation for his speech; a strong base that any American would struggle to discredit.
Although he was previously established as a prominent civil rights activist through his past actions, Dr. King increased his own credibility by demonstrating his character and moral standards. Dr. King said, "We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence." The civil rights movement was littered with violence by those promoting and resisting racial equality, and much harm was done to men, women, and children of all colors. Dr. King shows his firm stance against violence no matter the cause, revealing his true character. Despite the injustices suffered by him and his people, he abhorred physical retaliation and always strove for unbiased equality, earning him the approval of many white and black citizens alike.
Pathos is a method of convincing people with an argument drawn out through an emotional response, and we see Dr. King utilize this method quite often in his speech.
Just One Of The Guys
"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream." Dr. King's consistent usage of terms like "us," we," and "my friends" is by no means an oversight. He is appealing to their emotions and setting himself as an equal in their struggles. His goal is to communicate the notion that they are not alone in their suffering, and that as equals they can rise together and conquer the adversity before them.
"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream." The American dream is the ideal that every citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. This idea is an integral component of American society, and by associating his dream with the American dream, Dr. King strikes up an emotional patriotic appeal to U.S. citizens across the board.
One of King's most powerful emotional arguments in his speech is his appeal as a father. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." This line demonstrates that Dr.King has a personal investment in this movement; he wants what is best for his children. This is an idea that the public can easily identify with and wholeheartedly support.
Logos is the method of persuading the listener using an argument of logic and reasoning.
Dr. King's primary logos argument revolves around the premise that African Americans were promised equality in the past, and that promise was never fulfilled. In reference to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King says, "But one hundred years later, the negro is still not free." King speaks of the freedom and the rights promised to them by the government, and his logical conclusion is to protest until they finally receive that which they are owed.
The Three Genres of Rhetoric
Forensic rhetoric is that which primarily focuses on past action. Although much of Dr. King's speech has to do with the future, there are some forensic elements in his rhetoric. "Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation." King goes on to speak of the promises made to the negro community in the past, and how those promises have yet to be fulfilled. These past actions (or lack of actions) are the basis from which King builds the rest of his speech.
Epideictic rhetoric is also referred to as praise-and-blame rhetoric, and it focuses on the present. Dr. King demonstrates this form on several occasions in his speech, but the most prominent is the blame he puts on the American government for falling through on their promises of freedom and equality. "It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.
Deliberative rhetoric is the genre used to convince an audience to complete or not complete an action in the future. This is clearly Dr. King's most frequently used rhetorical genre. "We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force." King constantly calls for the people to rise up and unite against inequality, but he urges them to fight for their rights in a non violent way that benefits humanity as a whole.
The Five Cannons of Rhetoric
The invention of a speech refers to the conception and development of both topics and arguments. Although King's famous "I have a dream" portion of the speech will go down as one of the most influential rhetorical occurrences in American history, that particular quote was not an original invention for this particular speech. Dr. King had utilized it in a Chicago fundraiser a week prior, and a few months earlier at a large rally in Detroit. These speeches were moderately successful, but they failed in comparison to the speech given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
What makes the arrangement of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech so special is the fact that he was never supposed to utter the words "I have a dream." This was a phrase he had used in several previous speeches and his advisers instructed him to steer clear of it. However, at the end of his written speech, he felt as if something was missing, so he set aside his manuscript and began "Go back to Mississippi..." It was the extemporaneous portion of that speech that earned its place in the history books
Dr. King utilized several elements of style to persuade his audience. His repetition of key phrases help drive home his underlying message, but he also uses elements such as metaphor, metonymy, and synecdoche.
Dr. King uses several metaphors throughout his speech in order to better illustrate his points. He equates light with freedom and darkness with racial inequality. One of his most prominent metaphors is that of a check, "a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."
Metonymy is a form of substitution where one thing is replaced with another in order to simplify or clarify a situation. One example of metonymy is when Dr. King references specific places. "Let Freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi." These places were not chosen at random. They represent all locations that were filled with racism at the time.
Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa. By representing people as bodies or flesh, King is reminding his audience of the problems they are currently facing are related to their skin color. "We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill ans mountain shall be made low the rough places will be made plain, and te crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."
Dr. King did not memorize his famous speech. The majority of what he said was previously constructed by himself and a team of advisers. Technically he was reading from a manuscript, but Dr.King's impeccable speaking abilities and stage presence allowed him to consistently look up and face the crowd, giving off the impression that he had the speech memorized. However, the last portion of the speech was delivered existentially. It was not memorized or previously constructed, King simply adapted to the situation and in doing so he created history.
Dr. King's delivery varies as a he progresses through his speech. He starts in a more monotone manner, however when he decides to go off script and speak from the heart his passion increases. His voice operates with greater inflection as he and the crowd feed off each other's renewed energy. His hand motions become more prominent, and the general volume of the speech increases, demanding the audiences full attention.
The common belief amongst the civil rights activists was that negro citizens should have completely equal rights, and that there should be no distinguishable difference between them and white citizens. They believed all men are created equal to the utmost extent.
Although the civil rights movement was gaining momentum and had a massive support system, the popular opinion of the time was one resistant to change. Although the negro population was technically free, they did not share in all of the same freedoms as did white citizens, and the majority of the white population wanted to maintain the upper hand.
The true justified belief regarding racial inequality is that it is unacceptable. Race is no indicator of a person's worth. All people are created equal and deserve the same rights no matter the color of the skin or their nationality.
Dr. King's speech was not delivered at the most desirable moment in time. His audience had been baking in the blistering heat for quite sometime before they ever heard him speak; much of their energy and attentiveness had been drained by the sun and previous speakers. Had Dr. King spoken at a more opportune moment, his words may have made more of an impact on the audience. However, the immense success and influence his speech had, despite the unfavorable timing, points to the power of King's words and his immense public speaking capabilities.
The time, place, and all the other events surrounding Dr. King’s speech allowed for his words to be delivered to an enormous audience with great impact. Dr. King delivered his speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, during the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, at a time when thousands of people were marching on Washington. By taking advantage of this moment and opportunity, King was able to make his speech turn out to be exceedingly influential and historical.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was intended to display support for President Kennedy's new civil rights legislation. Dr. King, as well as the other speakers, agreed that the speeches would be kept calm, and no violence would be promoted. Civil disobedience had become heavily associated with civil rights protests, so many speakers would have considered these limitations as structural constraints. However, Dr. King was always outspoken against violent protests, so these constraints did not effect him to the extent they limited some of his fellow speakers.
Dr. King's speech is a prime example of an audience centered speech. Not only was King able to read his audience and adjust the material and emotion to spur on their attention and energy, but he knew the people in the crowd and made a point to identify them. "Go back to Mississippi, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed." King new the types of people in the audience; he knew men, women, and children had traveled hundred of miles from racist filled towns to hear him speak of such injustice. When he identifies his audience, it resonates with them as individuals and bolsters their support for him and the cause.
When Dr. King delivered his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, roughly 300,000 people were listening in the crowd, and millions were watching on their televisions from home. Since then countless others have witnessed the historic speech on television, heard it over the radio, or read it in a book. King's speech represents an example of mass dissemination; it spread the word on racial equality widely both in the United States and overseas, and it mobilized millions of desegregation supporters, prompting the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The syllogism and enthymeme were Aristotle's methods for examining argumentation and proving validity as well as truth. Generally, enthymemes are limited to one or two lines of a text at a time. However, Dr. King's speech can be analyzed as one giant enthymeme in its entirety. The logical syllogism of the speech would read:
Premise: God will reward nonviolence
Premise: We are chasing our goals nonviolently
Conclusion: Therefore God will grant us our goals.
Artistic proofs are arguments that the speaker must invent: definition, comparison, relationships, circumstances, testimony, notation and conjugates. King provides many artistic arguments in his speech, comparing the broken promise of freedom to a defaulted check from the failed bank of justice, and speaking of the grueling hardships the negro people had to suffer at the hands of racial injustice.
Inartistic proofs quote what others have said: laws, witnesses, contracts, or oaths. King uses inartistic proofs when referencing the Declaration of Independence. "This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the 'unalienable Rights' of 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'."
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as well as the public speeches that accompanied it, was an effort to demonstrate the countries support for President Kennedy's civil rights legislation. That being said, JFK could be seen as the implied author of Dr. King's famous speech. King was speaking in Washington to a nationwide audience of millions about segregation in favor of the Presidents proposed legislation. It can be argued that King was using his personal modes of persuasion to push the Presidents ultimate agenda.
The implied auditor refers not to the actual audience, but one that can be inferred by analyzing the text. Although the true audience was clearly a massive group of civil rights supporters, the implied auditor was the United States government. Dr. King clearly calls out the government for their hand in the racial injustice running rampant across the country, and he warns that the protests will not cease until they fulfill their long abandoned promise of freedom and equality.
Third persona refers to the audience not present, excluded from discourse, and rejected from the rhetorical situation. In King's speech this specific group appears to be the racist white sector who favor segregation. Dr. King never calls these people out nor does he speak poorly of them, despite some of the incredible harm they have caused the negro community. In fact, their existence is only implied by the fact that racial inequality exits, and a fight is necessary to conquer it.
Rhetoric vs Dialectic
Dialectic loosely refers to one-on-one logical or philosophical arguments, where as rhetoric is associated with the mass persuasion of large crowds. Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech is a clear example of rhetoric. On August 28, 1963 he addresses nearly 300,000 people on the steps of the historic Lincoln Memorial.
For Your Viewing Pleasure
The Five Cannons are the means by which a persuasive piece of Rhetoric is formed.
The five cannons of rhetoric connect with the rhetorical situation because the development of each cannon depends on the rhetorical context of the speech.
Audience connects to endoxa because endoxa is the popular opinion of the people, and the speaker must be aware of this opinion in order to most effectively persuade the listeners.
Epistome is an undeniable justified truth, and doxa is what the majority believes to be true. Thesse concepts connect to syllogisms because syllogisms are used to uncover truth.
Syllogisms and Enthymemes are carefully constructed logical arguments. They connect with artistic and inartistic proofs in that these two categories represent different methods of developing rhetorical arguments.
In order to construct an artistic proof, one must utilize Aristotle's three modes of persuasion.
The three modes of persuasion connect with first, second, and third person because they are utilized in hiding the implied author and implied auditor.
Inartistic proofs often reference documents and other reliable sources. This connects with the three genre's of rhetoric, specifically forensic, because forensic rhetoric focuses on past facts (the same facts that would be used in an inartistic proof).
Ideology refers to the system of ideas and beliefs that form the basis of political theory. In this particular scenario, the idea that all men are created equal spurred the civil rights movement.
The rhetorical situation is the context of a rhetorical event that consists of an issue, an audience, and a set of constraints
Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech
In this presentation I will breakdown different rhetorical aspects of Dr. King's speech in an attempt to map out the concepts we learned in class, starting with broader rhetorical elements and ending with those that require deep textual analysis.
By Wellford Moore