Martin Luther King’s speeches can be considered as great speeches due to the incorporation of social, historical and political, and rhetoric values. Most of the speeches presented by Martin Luther King have great significance both to the contextual audience and the current audience. Modern populace would consider them relevant as immediate audiences did at that time. The paper explores the speeches of Martin Luther King, their unique nature, presentation, content, and their importance in the development of any society. In addition, it presents a considerable amount of descriptive material regarding the way the speeches were organized to use history as a building block for the present and the future.
Martin Luther King’s forwent scholarly life remained in Dexter Street Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama. There, he did not get opportunities to teach. The studies at Morehouse, Crozer, and Boston University provided him with beneficial materials that he would later use in his speeches. In addition, the rich ideas from college life helped him in decision-making and provided him with means to relate with the whites (“King, Martin Luther, Jr.”).
His sermons, speeches and writings appealed to scriptures and philosophy he had already read. In his speeches, he links the historical events he had analyzed with the civil rights movements that advocated for equality between the whites and the African-Americans. The speeches had interwoven concepts from the Biblical teachings to contemporary philosophical teachings, especially from Hegel (Kelly). He often considered the teachings based on the social gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch that emphasized on the significance of good deeds in the world.
Furthermore, the speeches draw much attention to the works, teachings and writings of Reinhold Niebuhr, who was pessimistic about unjust and immoral institutions. Reinhold Niebuhr believed that immoral institutions would go a long way to corrupt moral people. In his speeches, Martin Luther King Jr. employs artful rhetorical structures and employs great ideas and concepts he learnt during his formal education (“King, Martin Luther, Jr.”). By using a variety of ideas from these great people, he was able to appeal to the white audiences and sway them to agree with his point of view.
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Whether it was out of strategic choice or the real belief in the concept, King regularly cited the American dream (King 124). His choice of language in the speeches borrowed much from the former American presidents: Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Much material is also borrowed from the Bible’s New Testament. His ideas about freedom in an ideal American society make his speeches unrivalled at the moment when racial injustice and segregation are at their epitome.
In his famous speech, “I Have a Dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. portrays America as a wasted chance, a view that he later changes after passing of both the civil rights and the voting rights in 1964 and 1965 respectively. The speeches give an impression that the many social problems present in the American systems culminated from economic iniquities (King 237). The choice of words such as ‘now is the time’ shows the urgency of implementing the ideas that he thought that America had not fulfilled.
Through the use of metaphors and application of exceptional techniques, it can be argued that Martin Luther King set the tone of inspiration for the current times. Most leaders in the current generation have followed the suit. It is through his oratorical speeches that he was able to convince people of all walks of life – whether the African-Americans or the whites to join hands and manage the menace of injustice and racial segregation in the American society (“King, Martin Luther, Jr.”).
At the Lincoln’s Memorial site during the march in Washington in 1963, in his famous speech, ‘I Have a Dream”, Martin Luther King expressed several issues including his discomfort, hope and aspirations that he held for the people of America (Kelly). For instance, he says, “still the negro is not free” to show discomfort; and he says, “I have a dream that one day my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the content of the skin but by the content of their character” showing hope of attaining equality in America.
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He could constantly weave together pieces of ideas that he spoke in the previous speeches to give a renewed approach to the matters that he addressed. King’s iconic oration in his series of speeches is considered a masterpiece of rhetoric. The speeches he made dug very deep into the issues of racial discrimination and inequality and instead presented the alternatives of love and integration.
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