In the beginning of his speech, Martin Luther King references Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation. Lincoln was the president of the United States during the Civil War and he lead a great civil rights movement during that time. By referencing this speech, King is using one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States and one of the most important addresses to our nation to give weight to his speech and in a way, give him credibility with the audience and America. This example works very well in my opinion. It set the tone early for how the rest of his speech would go. Shortly after, King quotes the Declaration of Independence’s “Life. liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. He is also using this to help with the foundation of his speech. This, too, works very well. It is a document written and signed by our forefathers guaranteeing these rights to everybody, regardless of race or gender. After referencing these two things he then says that “America has defaulted on this promise”, basically saying that what these great men fought for isn’t happening.
Martin Luther King uses a Logos example when he uses an analogy saying “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which come back marked insufficient funds.” I think that this is a pretty simple analogy that helps the audience and the American people understand what Martin Luther King is trying to say when explaining discrimination and the need for civil rights. Another example is when King says that African Americans “must not lead us to distrust all white people for many of our white brothers…have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny”. This is effective as King acknowledges frustration but wants everyone to know that people stand with him on this issue.
Martin Luther King’s speech has pathos examples everywhere. One of the many things he does exceptionally well is to get the audience and America to feel something. I feel that two of the bigger things he gets the audience to feel is inspiration and hope. An example is when he says “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” When he says God’s children, to me it makes the audience all the same, that everyone is on equal ground. He says the phrase “I have a dream” several times during the speech and does this to get the audience to feel inspired. One time he says the “American dream” to appeal to every American. Another time he says that “my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin”. As the classic saying goes “children are the future”, King is tapping into that emotional connection to every parent and future parent out there.
Martin Luther King’s speech uses Ethos, Pathos, and Logos several times throughout. It is no wonder that this is one of the greatest speeches ever written and shared with the world. Using each of these rhetorical tools enhanced his speech that inspired and gave hope to millions around the country and the entire world.