I Have a Dream

This study guide will help you analyze the speech “I Have a Dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on summary, analysis, topic, speaker, audience, language, modes of persuasion, circumstances, and intention.

Presentation of the speech

"I Have a Dream" is one of the most famous speeches in American history, delivered by civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. The speech is a powerful call for racial equality and an end to discrimination against African Americans.

The speech begins with King's famous words, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'" He goes on to describe his vision of a world in which racial injustice is no longer tolerated and people of all races can come together in peace and harmony.

King's use of vivid language and repetition throughout the speech, particularly in the refrain "I have a dream," has made it a memorable and inspiring piece of oratory. The speech played a crucial role in energizing the civil rights movement and contributed to the enactment of significant laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

You can watch the speech here.

"A speaker is using ethos when he appeals to his reliability as speaker and to his audience's trust in his reliability. The more likeable and reliable you come off, the more likely your audience will be to trust you and be persuaded by your arguments. 

As a church minister, King appeals extensively to the authority of Christian religious teaching, according to which all men are equal and should be treated as such: “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.”; “And this will be the day – this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:” (149-150) In 1963, people were more religious than today and that has probably also contributed to making the speech and King come off as reliable."

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I Have a Dream

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