Reflection Paper about the speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D. C. I Have a Dream is extremely emotional, a hopeful vision of the future of race in this country. King recognized that the March, with an attending crowd of over 200,000 as well as a national television audience, would be the perfect opportunity to gain support for the civil rights movement.
He intended to persuade his audience of the justice of the cause, encourage them to not abandon hope, and warn them that in the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of illegal deeds, declaring his belief that nothing positive is accomplished through violence King.
He designed his speech with those goals in mind. King’s understanding of the size and composition of his audience determined the rhetorical choices he made while composing his speech.
It is important to understand that while hoping to influence the attitudes of an entire nation, King was primarily addressing a black audience.
He spoke of generations of injustice, and referring to the recent increase in violence, stressed the importance of remaining non-violent. He warned against an attitude of distrust toward “our white brothers” who “have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom as evidenced by their presence here today. He is obviously speaking directly to black Americans. Because of this focus, King made rhetorical choices he knew would be familiar to a black audience with a shared cultural background.
Those choices have proven powerful to people of all races, but they were selected with a black American audience in mind. The reasons for King’s rhetorical choices are frequently attributed to their special impact on black Americans, but it should be worried that the effectiveness of these choices crossed all racial boundaries.
King knew an emotional speech would have greater impact upon a large, outdoor crowd. He presented a beautiful and compelling vision of equality that inspired the crowd, expanded his national audience and ensured their attention to future messages. He wanted to reach the masses and did so. To inspire the crowd, to instill his speech with an emotional and spiritual quality, King utilized the delivery style of the black folk pulpit of which he was master. King, a master stylist, used a variety of rhetorical techniques in his speech. I Have a Dream” needed to touch a wide range of people: people from different geographical locations, with different education backgrounds, of different color. King anticipated the importance of the March, knew he had a real opportunity to be heard by millions. He recognized the difficult demographics of the situation. The audience would be enormous and distractions would be inevitable in the wide open outdoor location. He also understood that the patience of black Americans was too sorely tried: black Americans would no longer be pacified with mere promises.
And while understanding their frustration, King passionately wanted to convince the crowd to pursue their cause without violence. Because he understood of all of this, King chose not to focus on detail, not to focus on strategy. He appealed to the crowd’s higher emotions of spirituality and patriotism. God was on their side, their struggle would be rewarded. Currently, “I Have a Dream” is still considered a deep work studied in both literature and speech classes. “I Have a Dream” is a masterpiece which describes, with wisdom and compassion, a people’s long struggle for equality.