Public Speaking Expert
American activist Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the world’s greatest speakers. “I Have a Dream,” the speech that made his famous, was a key moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. It is also considered one of the memorable speeches in the American history. Much of its greatness is tied to its historical context. When people remember this speech, they recall King’s message about peace and understanding.
This dramatic speech was delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Martin Luther King described his dreams of freedom arising from a land of slavery. He outlined the gap between the American dream and the real life. “I have a dream” is considered a masterpiece of rhetoric. King uses metaphors, negative words, and repetition to describe the racial discrimination in the country. Here are a few things we can learn from his speech:
- Use metaphors to highlight contrasting concepts
- Use appropriate quotations
- Repeat key ideas throughout your speech
- Come up with specific examples to support your arguments
- Raise or lower your voice in relation to your tone
- Use quick dramatic pauses to keep your audience engaged
- Use powerful closing lines
In his speech, King used persuasive techniques to gain civil rights for African-Americans. The remarkable emotion in his voice and gestures contributed to the impact of his speech. “I have a dream” was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century.
Studying the rhetorical techniques in this speech may improve your presentation and communication skills. Martin Luther King used alliterations, allusions, metaphors, litotes, and parallel phrasing to make his speech engaging and memorable. “I have a dream” is repeated in eight sentences, which increases the rhetorical effect. Emphasis through repetition makes your message memorable.
The word “freedom” is repeated 20 times throughout the speech. The word “nation” appears 10 times, while the word “justice” is repeated eight times. Repeating key “theme” words helps persuade your audience and deliver your message more effectively. Kind has also used extended metaphors and assonance, which added an element of musical poetry to the speech.
King’s speaking technique is remarkable; no words are lost and key pauses exist throughout the entire presentation. Numerous Biblical allusions support his arguments. He is constantly reminding people that the problems they’re facing are related to their skin color. Each person in the audience felt like Dr. King was speaking directly to them. His speech has changed the world for the better.