Friday, September 18, 2009

Influence of Time

Words can have such great power and influence in the lives of humans. There have been many speeches given by authoritative figures in American history that could have been directly related to kairos. Kairos means the right time, at the right place, with the right people. I read Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech. Back in the early 1950's and 1960's, segregation was nothing but common amongst American citizens. People were accustomed to those of other ethnicities being below them and not allowing them to have the same rights as those 'true Americans'. Martin Luther King became aware of these issues at a very early age. He grew up in a very religious family and became a pastor at just the age of 25. Martin Luther gathered facts and began to find people that supported him, both of the African American race, and that of others as well.

Segregation and unequal treatment had been going on for years before Martin Luther King Jr. became involved in the issues. African Americans had been treated unfairly by other citizens as well as government authorities (i.e. police officers). There had been many cases of children being harassed for drinking out of a 'whites only' drinking fountain. Rosa Parks had gotten arrested for not moving from her seat for a white citizen. People were aware of the issue, whether they wanted to be or not. When Martin delivered his speech on August 28, 1963, people were ready to hear what he said. People were ready to have a leader step up and take charge to change the views of those who weren't being fair. Martin Luther King delivered his speech with impeccable timing, and those who were there recieved it with all of the power that he delievered it with. He said, "One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition." (par.3) He addressed the true fact that African American's progress towards equality had hardly moved over hundreds of years. Everyone knew that it was time to make a change, and by giving it when he did, he woke up many Americans as to the horrific treatment that was occuring in this country.

Martin Luther King Jr. chose a prime place to deliver his memorable speech. Delivering it in Washington D.C. showed numerous things about him, and also affected his speech. By giving it in such a monumental place in the country, many people were exposed to what he was saying. It showed that he had courage and that he was willing to fully back up the issue at hand. He chose a place that was a neutral zone. It would have been much less effective if he were to have given it in Alabama, because of the heavier concentration of African Americans. Washington D.C. at that time had an ample amount of many different races, thus making it much more effective. By having his speech in D.C, he made many people think that he had faith in the issue. Having it in such an important location showed that he had confidence in the issue of segregation being solved. Many people became inspired to help push for the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment because of his speech.

Going along with that, hundreds of thousands of Americans attended the speech. Not only were the vast majority of them supporters, but there were many protestors there as well. The protestors were there to try to boycott the speech, but regardless, they were there to hear what he had to say. Supporters came from all across the country to hear this monumental speech, and it was broadcasted on many television and radio stations. Many people, even not in attendance, were affected by the power with which he delivered the speech. Many people became actively involved in the issues after his speech because of how he aroused emotions in American citizens. Martin Luther related to the people by talking about his dreams and his wishes to make America the best country it can be. He persuades the citizens because they are able to feel the sincerity of his words.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech was directly related to kairos. The timing of his speech during these difficult times helped to make it more effective. He delivered it to many different races of Americans, making it a monumental speech. He got many people aware of, and involved in the issues at hand. Delivering it Washington D.C. gave the speech the edge that it needed. It showed that he was a true leader and that he genuinely cared about treatment of all citizens. His courageousness proved him to be one of the most influential leaders that would ever live. Due to his speech and the dedication to the issue at hand, segregation became illegal and African Americans were given fair treatment.

American Rhetoric Top 100 American Speeches. 2001-2009. American Rhetoric. 18 September
2009 <>.


  1. I really like how you address the different aspects of kairos, namely, presenting an issue at the right time and place. I never thought of the location of the "I have a dream" speech as being significant, but it's something I think definitely contributed to the effectiveness of his speech. Thanks for pointing that out!

    Nice job!

    (And I just noticed this, but you may want to change your title... :)).

  2. The quote you give suggests that there's a more specific piece of Kairos he's invoking...look back and see if you can figure it out.

    I think you could also benefit more from details about place.

  3. Oh, and you probably want to edit the title.

  4. Great job! I would have liked direct quotes and little more depth to your argument but good organization. You had some good ideas!

    Question...In my Civil Rights class we talked about his speech and I thought that it didn't actually have a big effect when it happened. Just something to look into...