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Persuasive Techniques in "I Have a Dream"

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James Burnett

on 5 February 2013

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Transcript of Persuasive Techniques in "I Have a Dream"

An Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies "I Have A Dream" Introduction Persuasion is the art of convincing your audience to feel the same way on a controversial issue as you do. Through the ages, writers and speakers have developed and employed a range of rhetorical strategies they use to help persuade their audiences to follow their way of thinking. Thesis In Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, King relies on rhetorical strategies such as analogies, parallelism, and restatement to help persuade his audience. Analogy Example: "It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds."

Explanation: An analogy is a comparison drawn between to seemingly unlike things to make a point. King sets up an analogy by comparing our civil rights as citizens to a check. He uses this to show how for African-Americans this has come back as a "back check." By employing this analogy in his speech, King reminds that the audience of the unfair treatment of African-Americans. Parellelism Example: "But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimmination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity."

Explanation: Parellelism is similarity in structure and grammar between sentences and phrases. In this excerpt from the text, King begins each sentence with "one hundred years later." The purpose of this strategy is to remind his audience that it has been 100 years since African-Americans were freed as slaves by Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation proclamation. By doing so, he reminds us that 100 years has passed and very little has changed. This persuades the audience that it is time for change. Restatement Example: "When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men...would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."


Explanation: In this excerpt, King restates the idea that the Constituion and Declaration of Independence guaranteed all men (and women) the "unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Since this is his primary point in his speech, King uses the persuasive technique of restatement to further clarify and emphasize this idea to his audience by using different words to express the same idea. Conclusion Whether or not King's speech is effective is not the question. The mere fact that his speech has stood the test of time and now resides in student's textbooks all across the nation attest to that. The question is, what makes King's "I Have a Dream" speech effective? Through analysis of the text, it is quite evident that his use of analogy, repetition, and restatment was intentional and effectual. Otherwise, would the phrase "I Have a Dream" hold the recognition that it still does to this day?
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