Main Strategies Used in King’s Speech

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In 1963, activist and leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the most famous speech in history. The I Have a Dream speech was heard by over 200,000 people at the March of Washington. His intended audience were black and white people with the desire for equality and change in the United States of America. King wanted those oppressed to continue fighting for the equality that was promised to them, but not yet given at the time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. utilized ethos, pathos, logos, and the four strategies of influence to execute his I Have a Dream’ speech successfully.

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From the very beginning of his speech, King established a connection with his 200,00 plus audience though pathos. He claimed 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 (King).

He is appealing to the audience’s emotions by analysing the historical value of that moment and how everyone that was there would be apart of it. To trigger deeper emotions, MLK Jr. embellished fear and anger by stating But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination (King). He inflicts fear and anger by using cue words such as shameful, sadly crippled, etc, and making people feel as though something has been taken from them to get the audience riled up.

In addition, it is evident that Martin Luther King Jr. knew the importance of establishing trust and credibility amongst his audience. He did so using ethos and by mentioning public figures such as our founding fathers that formed the Emancipation Proclamation while still being relevant to his argument at the beginning of his speech. MLK Jr. asserts When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir (King).  Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc, were all well known presidents that had great influence in shaping our nation. So it makes sense that Dr. King would touch base on these public figures because he himself was attempting to change and shape the country for the better.

In Dr. King’s words,  Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality and …America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.'(King). His use of logos in form of analogies is significantly present in these statements because he is using experiences, that he and others have been through, making his statement factual. He also refers to the black men and women who sacrifice themselves by working hard day in and day out only to receive a bad check or nothing at all.

Furthermore, credibility is established through pathos in the I Have a Dream Speech and is presented in many forms. As previously stated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. directs the audience’s attention to the founding fathers and the Declaration of Independence which allows the listeners to recognize King as trustworthy. Not only that but he also alludes to the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed by former president, Abraham Lincoln: a well known public figure. Keep in mind that Dr. King was a great leader and advocate for equal rights during that time, which definitely helped build an attractive fundamental background for his audience. The speech seems to be steered towards the central route of persuasion because the audience’s attitudes seemed to be modified with the changes that happened after the speech. His speech ultimately caused a large uproar for change with his formal and peaceful protest. After the speech, there was significant change in the way people protest because of MLK’s example.

The four stratagems of influence include pre-persuasion, credibility, message, and emotions: all in which Dr. King achieved in his well written speech. As previously mentioned, Dr. King proclaimed,  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( King). This was a great way to get the audience ready to be persuaded by expanding their minds on what was to come. He follows the speech with factual evidence that’s relevant to his argument such as the unfulfilled promises of the Emancipation Proclamation. He established credibility with this as well by using the founding fathers and Abraham Lincoln to make a point for his argument. His message was clear with the analogies made about the black community and the unfairness that they endure. The message targeted the minds of the audience with desire for equality of rights. Lastly, King targets an emotional responses such as fear and anger from the audience. One example of this is when he said And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges (King). He inflicts fear here by basically saying that there will be no peace until black people are granted equal rights.

With an audience of over 200,000 people, Dr. Martin Luther King, leader and civil rights activist wrote the I Have a Dream speech. He wanted equal rights for the black communities and he wanted his audience to desire the same thing. To encourage this, Dr. King wrote this powerful speech with the help of ethos, pathos, logos, and the four stratagems of persuasion, and he was able to achieve just that

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Main Strategies Used In King's Speech. (2019, Aug 02). Retrieved December 7, 2022 , from

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