Essay on I Have a Dream
“I Have a Dream” August 28th, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D. C. , Martin Luther King Jr. preformed his “I Have a Dream” speech. Perhaps amongst one of the most famous speeches in history, this speech is considered one of the most influential speeches of the 20th century. “I Have a Dream” has inspired millions of people and is still frequently quoted and cited nearly 50 years later. My goal in writing his paper is to evaluate King’s speech using the evaluation criteria. The four main criteria are: effects, truth, ethical and artistic.
Each plays a very different role in assessing an essay and it’s adequacy. The purpose of the speech was to inspire Americans to believe that all individuals of all races should be treated equal, and that they would one day. King wanted people to stand with him and fight for their rights. The rhetoric situation was that King was delivering his speech during the “March on Washington,” where a protest was being held. Thousands and thousands travelled from all over the country to hear him speak. The rhetorical constraints of the speech were trying to adhere to those who opposed civil rights.
The ones that King really had to reach out to were those who still believed that segregation should continue. This leads into the first criteria of evaluation, effects. Effects are whether or not the author, or in this case speaker, got the final outcome that they wanted to achieve. The final outcome that King was seeking by making his speech was for equal rights to be finalized, and that all men and women of all races would be free at last. In the first line of his speech King states “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Implying that King had great homes for the outcome of his ever so famous speech, he not only wanted to inspire those in his audience but to make them as passionate about the issue as he was himself. The next portion of the effects criteria is “logical and/or emotional sense. ” This examines whether or not the speech tries to capture the audience’s mind. In my opinion I think that the speech is more emotional rather than logical. King knew the anguish his listeners were feeling, and he used those feelings to fire his audience up.
He wished to connect emotionally with them, share their pain and happiness. For example, he often uses the word “we” within his speech, letting the audience know that he stands beside them, rather than in front of them. The second criteria when doing an evaluation is truth. Truth in and of itself is pretty self-explanatory, it is whether or not the author/speaker is using facts rather than fiction. “I Have a Dream” is a very truthful speech. During the time that King wrote his speech equal rights still did not exist in many states and segregation was common most everywhere.
He also touches upon the Emancipation Proclamation and how it led to the start of the civil rights movement, even though it was a century beforehand. On line two of King’s speech he states, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. ” The Emancipation Proclamation was undeniably the starting point for equal rights, freeing all slaves from their owners. King also uses the Constitution as a historical reference, to note that all men were supposed to be guaranteed certain rights. At the time of the speech, a lot of those rights were still not given to many citizens.
The third criteria in evaluation is ethical, this implies that the speech is socially responsible and not corruptive. This speech is fairly ethical, because King does not make any outrageous allegations against those who had done wrong and the rally held during the speech was very peaceful. But for the effect it had on society, it was remarkable. That August day King and 250,000 others marched peacefully in Washington. The following day the New York Times wrote about the speech, “They had found an effective way to demonstrate for changes in the laws without breaking the laws themselves” (Reston, 1963).
There was also another article entitled 200,000 March for Civil Right in Orderly Washington Rally; President Sees Gain for Negro. The article stated “it was the greatest assembly for a redress of grievances that this capital has ever seen…There was no violence to mar the demonstration. In fact, at times there was an air of hootenanny about it as groups of schoolchildren clapped hands and swung into the familiar freedom songs” (Kensworthy, 1963). This just goes to show how non-violent King’s followers actually were.
King wished to send positive messages to his audience and encourage them to act civilly rather than aggressively to achieve their goal. The final criteria for evaluation is artistic, which judges the words used and the delivery of the speech are important. The speech is very artistically put together. King paints vivid pictures with his words and emotions. One line six he states, “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path or racial justice. ” His use of descriptive words makes his speech more persuasive and appealing to the audience.
His use of the phrase, “I have a dream” is consistently used throughout the speech. This makes the speech flow together in harmony. A great writing technique seen throughout his speech is a metaphor, in line six for example, “Instead of honoring his sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds. ’” King is not actually speaking of a bank account, but instead is using it as a metaphor for how African Americans were promised these rights but were never given them. King uses many different writing techniques to help to create and maintain drama throughout the speech.
The speech definitely applied some criteria stronger than others. I believe that King uses artistic and ethical criteria the strongest throughout his speech. The way in which his speech flows together and uses powerful descriptive words are characteristics of the strong artistic values of his speech. However I think the truth aspect of his speech could have been stronger. Although he did not use any false information, it would have been better to use more references throughout his speech, the only things he really quoted are the Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitution.
On line ten he states, “We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. ” The second part of the statement may be true, but African American males had been able to vote since 1870, almost a century before this speech, he could have been trying to use a metaphor, regardless, it was not truthful. He also dramatized many things, such as on line three when he states “But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. Technically speaking, they were free by constitutional rights, but did not entertain the same rights as Caucasians at this time. Dramatization may be great tools in some speeches, but it may seem un-honest to those audience members who did not understand metaphors or other writing strategies. Overall, I think that the speech met all the criteria in most ways. I evaluated the speech based on how I felt it fit the four main points of ethicality, truthfulness, effects, and artistic value. The speech has been an American staple since the day King gave it, nearly 50 years ago.
King did a great job in standing up for what he believed in and accomplished his goal of civil rights for every man and woman, regardless of color in the United States. Works Cited Kensworthy, E. W. (1963, August 29). “200,000 March for Civil Rights in Orderly Washington Rally; President Sees Gain for Negro. ” New York Times. King Jr. , M. L. (1963, August 28). I Have A Dream. Conducted from The Lincoln Memorial, Washington D. C. Reston, J. (1963, August 29). “I Have A Dream…” Peroration By Dr. King Sums up A Day The Capital Will Remember. New York Times.