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This is the speech delivered by the great black leader Dr. Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963 on the occasion of the Walk on Washington for Jobs and Freedom against racial inequality. He along with other Black men marched and protested against the tyranny of the government officials who were biased against African Americans. This speech was made a part of 1964 Civil Rights Act.    

Martin Luther King was a clergyman, prominent activist and leader of the African American civil rights movement.  In his speech he contested the brutality of American Government towards African Americans who were deprived of their basic rights. They were not even free to observe their religion and their culture. According to King’s speech, they were living a life of poverty and were being discriminated against in the arena of Government jobs and education. In his speech he made the point clear that the State of America cannot progress and prosper without taking African Americans into account. He specifically emphasized on their right to vote in states like Mississippi and Alabama where black people were living their lives in the valley of despair.
          For any analysis, it is essential to analyze the relevance of the topic at hand. The speech is primarily focused on the struggle is one that the human race has faced since time immemorial and it is words and speeches like these that have helped change the course of history. In the 1960’s, this speech was pertinent to the rights of the Black population, it is evident that the words that initiated a movement were successful in making their mark. As a result of such powerful rhetoric, the movement gained full swing and an entire race was given its rights.

      In the speech King pointed out that black children should be allowed to pursue higher education in the same schools and colleges as white children. They should be allowed to “sing the songs for their nation’s welfare” along with other people. He ended his speech with the hope that one day “all the valleys of America would be exalted and would be given the status equal to that of other states of America”. King had the dream that one day they would be allowed to work together, pray together and struggle together for their nation’s stream of progress. He concluded with the dream that there would come a time when little black boys and girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls as brothers and sisters. He had the dream that one day freedom would ring from all over America.
The title given to the speech “I have a dream” shows that the orator wants to tell his desires and wishes to the people. It holds immense poetic appeal. The title depicts the dream of freedom dreamt by every innocent prisoner. It depicts that the speaker is trying to persuade the audience about the need for equality and egalitarianism of all people. Martin is addressing the people of America and the bureaucracy. He has described the dream of every black man to live a peaceful life without any injustice.
         Firstly Martin started his rhetoric by demanding racial justice. He builds this by taking the historical background of black people into account 1). He mentions that previously they were deprived of their basic rights and were living a miserable life. Then he builds a parallel scenario to describe the oppression on the African Americans. In his speech he brilliantly describes the consequences of unfairness in America and by the classical technique of pathos, he appeals to the emotions of the audience. He also explains the goals and solutions of the problem which the black population was facing consistently. Later, he gives the opinion that the fate of white people is tied up with the destiny of the black and their peaceful coexistence is essential for the progress and prosperity of the state.
He then moves on to describe the potential of the population that has not been allowed to participate in the progress of the country. He argued that if given respect, opportunity and responsibility, the African Americans would be capable enough to be active participants in nation building. The use of flowery language is epitomized when King gives the title of “veterans of creative suffering” to the Blacks because they work with the faith that unjustified suffering is redeeming.  He beautifully told that it is the duty of the government to uproot the racial discrimination between the blacks and whites. In his iconic speech he urged America to fulfill the promises of democracy- those of provision of equal rights and representation which are the fundamental need for having justice in a country. Finally Martin visualized and concluded the main goals by the use of similes, metaphors, images and repetitions.
Stylistically the speech is written as a work of poetry 2).  The repetition of the word “I have a dream” narrates to us, the hope of the Black people as silver lining.
The text of the speech is clear, well-organized and easy to read. It is well researched and the speaker has used the accurate facts supported with examples from the different states of America. The whole speech is based on the theme that all people are created equal; no one is superior to other on the basis of color and race and is the key message of the speech. This is not only the key principle of democracy, but also a social principle upheld by most major religions of the world. The tone of the speech is critical yet imploring, which is ironic. But considering the political agenda of M.L King, it falls in perfect unison with his strategy of peaceful resistance.
The words of the text like “sweltering in the heat of injustice” clearly show that the speaker is against the government at that time. The whole speech seems to be delivered in order to fuel the emotions of the audience. The words like “we cannot turn back and we can never be satisfied” used by the speaker show their demands from the government.

The speech is characteristic of the grievances and reservations faced by any oppressed population. The use of flowery language and parallelism is the perfect blend to give emotional appeal to the entire speech. It was because of this, and use of other rhetoric like this that the African American civil rights movement was made a common cause. Hence, this speech has rightfully earned its place in the most powerful rhetoric of our times.

Written By: Aleem Haider ( LUMS )

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