Persuasion at it's best?

By , Camas, WA
There have been many famous speeches in the course of history, but none can motivate or move the hearts of people more efficiently than Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream”. It is an excellent example of successful persuasion. His central purpose was to motivate members of the crowd to do something about racial segregation, and to inspire other’s around them to join in the movement.
The most prevalent persuasion technique MLK employed was emotional appeal. These emotional appeals are scattered throughout the entire delivery of his speech, and the crowd responded incredibly well to them. King’s appeals draw from the already prevalent sense of unity in the African American community, and he knows they all are hoping for a change so he gives them a common dream, or a name for the change they are all hoping for. “But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice” by stating this King is building the crowd up and giving them something to be excited about. King’s strongest emotional appeal was to the crowd’s sense of hope.
MLK also uses past experiences to unify the crowd. This is logical appeal because it’s a fact that the people there have lived through them. He pulls them together by acknowledging the pain that they are all sharing. He uses historical examples. Such as when he explains “...the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.” The crowd cheered are yelled encouragement to King as he continued through the speech. They had all felt the pain of segregation and hearing the historical events they had shared, it was logical that they would become unified from it. King’s logical appeals were effective and unifying.
Once MLK had established the strong since of community, he appeals to it. This is another instance of his using emotion to persuade. He does this when he says “We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.” King uses the words “our, we, us, and together” extensively and repetitively. He makes it clear that the only path to success is one that is traveled together, through community. His emotional appeal was to the crowd’s sense of togetherness.
Furthermore on the community scene, Martin Luther takes the further established and “appealed” sense of community and turns it into a call for action. He asks the crowd to “jump on the bandwagon”. Consider when he says “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” He calls the people assembled at his speech to go forth from this meeting and fight for freedom and equality. The people in the crowd respond with vivacious claps, cheering and yelling.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s purpose was to motivate the crowd assembled at his “I have a dream” speech. He wanted to persuade them to fight for equality and desegregation, and he was successful. The people poured out of D.C and went on to do great things, such as the Freedom Rides, peaceful marches, and legislation was passed. He used emotional appeals when he called on the peoples hope, and he used their sense of unity to call them to action. All together, MLK was extraordinarily successful in his speech.


Works Cited List:

King, Martin L. "American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr. - I Have a Dream." American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm>.





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