The Art of Rhetoric in Speech by Martin Luther King

Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, for many many decades, African Americans were still being oppressed by any means necessary by whites. The 1950s and the 1960s ignited the beginning of the civil rights movement making racial uplift and social change a prominent concern. All our leaders wanted the black race to upswing above oppression, however, they had different viewpoints on how to achieve such goals. More specifically, one leader named Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to uprise above the oppression using sense of conformity such as in the act of nonviolent protests. In a sense, Dr. King can be described as an “apostle of nonviolence.’ Even though he was against violence, King still managed to have effective tactics. One of his effective tactics was consisted through his work, by him being able to promote racial uplift and social change through rhetorical strategies.

In his “ I Have a Dream Speech,’ Martin Luther King demonstrated the power of rhetoric and how it can have an effect on the audience. To start, he uses anaphora when repeating, “One hundred years later the Negro…”. In this repetition, the speaker targets the audience to make them realize that African Americans are still under oppression even after they were legally freed. Furthermore, he expresses the idea of social change saying that this discrimination needs to stop and the time is now. Also, Dr. King uses many instances of metaphorical speech such as when he compares ‘“sacred obligation, American has given the Negro people” to a “‘bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds”’. By saying this, he is stating that America has given the negroes promises, however, they have not fulfilled them. He uses this metaphor to emphasize to the audience that all races must be equal. With saying this speech, Martin Luther King moved millions of people to stand up and fight for their deserved freedom.

Going on to four years later, in Dr. King’s “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint”speech he gave to a group of junior high students in 1967, he uses multiple rhetorical strategies to get his point across to the young audience. First, he uses the strategy parallelism telling them how they should begin their blueprint in which he states, “Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your own worth, and your own somebodiness. In this quote, King is promoting the idea of racial uplift saying that they do not need any validation from anyone else. Even though they were going through segregation that made them feel as though they were nothing, they needed to believe in oneself in order to succeed. Moreover, Martin Luther King continues to use parallelism and even adding some pathos in stating, “And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you–doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.” In saying this, the King was assured that a change was coming because of the fighting him and their parents were doing for the future or in others words for young students in order for them to have a better life. . He was confident that their hard work was soon going to pay off for the greater good. In this speech, Dr. King emphasized the importance for them to make this blueprint so when it was their time to rise up against these oppressors, they can prove that they were and always going to be as good as them.

Shortly after, a year later King gives the speech “The Drum Major Instinct” from the pulpit swaying members of the church by using rhetorical devices. For example, Dr .King uses anaphora when defining the drum instinct when he says, “It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.” So what the audience gets from this is that the whites has this drum major instinct against black people in which they have establish laws in order to feel superior against African Americans. King is not saying it is right but he provides reason on why they put the black race down like they do. Blacks do not get treated like this because they are nothing, it is just the whites just want to have a sense of importance. As he goes on to talk about the drum major instinct, King cites from Jesus sayings in which is states,’Yes, don’t give up this instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important…” The reason Dr. King cites this was to encourage the audience that even though the whites uses this instinct in a negative way, they can still use it in a positive manner. If the black race use the instinct “right” and use the desire of wanting to equal, they can get receive the equality they deserve. In a sense, Dr.King influenced the audience to use the drum major instinct when fighting for their rights.

In conclusion, Martin Luther King Jr. touched all of his audiences through the tactic of using various rhetorical strategies. While others were using violence as a tactic, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance. Martin Luther King Jr. defined the civil rights movement in different way in every one of his works dealing with what was going on in each moment they are written. Through every letter and speech, King brought more attention to the civil rights movement than before. The reason why his works are so memorable was because he was a master of word choice and literary elements. His authenticity in his speaking and the connection he managed to make with his audience set him apart and gave him the legacy he has today. Overall, King definitely helped his people upswing passed oppression and for that he is celebrated every year for what he has done.