Saturday, October 3, 2009

Touching Lives

A wonderful man who made a difference in the world is Martin Luther King, Jr. His famous speech “I have a dream” is widely known and referred to frequently. Before August 28, 1963, the date of his speech, the United States was greatly segregated. Black people were not treated equally, and white people were seen as better people who deserved everything. The country was racist. Something had to be done and King was the one to do it. He was courageous and bold and stood up for what he believed in. The most effective tactic he used during that speech was the audience he spoke to. With the correct audience, nearly anything can be achieved.

Martin Luther King, Jr. knew his audience. He knew who he was addressing and how to speak to them. On that day in August, over 200,000 civil rights supporters gathered to hear his message and act accordingly. The people in attendance, predominantly black, came because they were passionate about freedom and equal rights. Any speaker or author, like King, needs to recognize the beliefs of their audience, because this is the key in gaining their support and word. Martin states, “the Negro still is not free…the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination…the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity...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). With this, he stirs the emotions of people, using pathos, and creates an image for all to recognize and relate to. Martin Luther King knew his audience and what they had been through.

Another important factor in touching those you are speaking to is by relating to them and understanding their circumstances. King knew exactly what the people were challenged with because he faced the same problem. He understood the feeling of segregation and being hated just because of the color of your skin. He could empathize with the people. Therefore, his argument becomes even more effective.

The crowd was filled with those who could relate, mainly black people, but white people still were in attendance, as many supported his beliefs as well. King showed his respect for all people. He reiterates “that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’” (par.4). King relates black men to white men, proving that all are equal and are granted the same freedoms. He also shows that respect should be given, even to those who have not shown mercy on black men. He says, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence” (par.8). King exemplifies to the people that although times have been hard, all must act with poise and rationally. He knows how the people must feel and their animosity towards those repressing them, but he speaks calmly, explaining that irrational judgment is not going to bring about anything good. King knows what the people are thinking, and therefore is able to alleviate their concerns.

Lastly, the people needed a leader with confidence. They have gone through horrible times; times of slavery and unjust punishments. Martin Luther King exemplified a fearless leader who stood up for his beliefs. He truly expresses his love for the people as he proclaims, “when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last” (par. 32)!
Martin Luther King, Jr. made a difference in the world because he stood up for what he wanted and was able to touch the lives of many. He knew his audience and addressed them in the appropriate manner, which he knew would be most effective.


  1. You did a great job of outlining the reasons with which he used his ethos of being a leader. I felt that the quotes you pulled out backed up your ideas. Your analysis is very easy to read and to understand. Martin Luther King's speech is not too wordy or difficult as it is, but you outlined his ideas very well.

  2. Nice job connecting ethos with audience analysis. I like how you quoted the spiritual at the end of your analysis - not only does it relate to Martin Luther King Jr's religious background, but it also provides an example of how he further was able to appeal to his audience, many of which were from the highly religious bible belt.

    Another thing to consider: How did the nation as a whole respond to his speech? Because his speech was held in a prominent public place and received widespread attention, how do you think that affected the content of the "I Have a Dream"?

  3. Megan, you did a great jog giving so many examples of how he knew his audience. It is clear you thought a lot about how he tried to portray himself. I like the quotes you used. It seems more vivid seeing exactly what he said.

    bien hecho

  4. I think Jessica is on to something important in her comment: how much is King talking to the people who are there and how much is he talking to people who are not physically present? Who are they and how is he trying to reach them?