Problem/Solution Essay

In 1963, when Martin Luther King gave his most famous speech equity of man was not a known thing in the United States. But with King’s eye opening speech it became a known issue that the country would work towards fixing. Kings “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most memorable speeches of all time and possibly one of the most successful speeches; it made America into what it is today. This speech cost Martin Luther King his life, but also mastered the art of persuasion successfully.

By Martin Luther King using the rhetorical appeals Pathos and Ethos in his “I Have a Dream” speech, he persuaded the audience that discrimination is wrong. On August 26, 1963 on the steps of Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King JR delivered a seventeen minute speech, which turned out to be one of the most famous speeches of all time. He starts his speech out with confidence, announcing that this will be one of the greatest explanations for freedom. He mentions the Emancipation Proclamation and how it gave hope to Negro slaves, but now one hundred years later the Negro is still not free.

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He uses the analogy that we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check for independence. But the men of color have been given a bad check, and they refuse to believe that the bank of justice and freedom is bankrupt. He advises that it would not be smart for the nation to overlook the colored men and their request for freedom this time. That they will not give up until their wish for freedom has been granted. But in order for the colored people to gain their wish they must do it the correct way, by keeping the peace.

He tells about his dream and that regardless of the difficulties he faces, his dream will remain and he will not give up. He ends his speech saying he dreams about no more discrimination or segregation, and that in order for America to be a great nation, this dream must come true. The rhetorical strategy Pathos is the main rhetorical strategy used in King’s speech to persuade the audience that discrimination and segregation is wrong. Pathos is the appeal to ones emotions; it uses powerful words to make the audience feel compassionate towards the situation.

King uses several emotional stories and phrases in his speech. He tells about his dreams, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. ” Many people in the audience have children, therefore they can relate to this statement. By him referring to them as “little” children he uses a powerful word that gives the statement more emotional appeal.

The audience pictures young, helpless children when they think of “little children” therefore it pulls at their heart by giving them that image. Another example of Pathos would be where he shocked the audience. “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. ” By making this statement he shocks the audience with his boldness. He’s basically threatening the white people to give blacks the freedom they deserve.

By his powerful use of words such as, “fatal” and “urgency”, he proves his point that the colored people will not stop until they get what they deserve, their freedom. Martin Luther King’s speech also uses the rhetorical appeal Ethos to persuade the audience. Ethos is used to gain the audiences trust using the speaker’s credibility and authority. He starts his speech, “I am happy to join you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. ” This shows that he is confident in his speech and truly believes he will make a difference.

This gains the trust of the audience and makes them believe that what he says will be meaningful and purposeful. This leads the audience to believe he must know what he is talking about since he is so confident in his words. Another example of Ethos would be that King is African American. With him being a “colored man” he knows from experience what the colored people are going through. This gains the trust of the people because he is just like them. He gives real life examples in his speech, “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.

Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. ” This shows that King knows exactly what the protestors are going through and that he relates to them. This gains the trust of the audience and lets them know that King knows what he’s talking about.

Martin Luther King clearly gets his point across in his “I Have a Dream” speech using the rhetorical appeals Pathos and Ethos. By using emotional appeal and his credibility he convinces the audience that discrimination and segregation are wrong. Through this speech, and many other speeches and demonstrations, he changes America and brings discrimination and segregation to our attention. This speech is the beginning of freedom for all the people of America.


* King, Martin Luther JR. , (1963, August), “I Have a Dream”. Speech presented at Lincoln Memorial. Washington, D. C.


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