Martin Luther King Jr. Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Essay

On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King delivered his speech to all of America. Martin Luther’s opening line to his speech was, “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” In Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a dream”, he uses all three of these forms of rhetoric in order to persuade to his audience that racism and segregation is not the plan for the future of America.

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As he delivered his speech, Martin Luther King states, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the emancipation proclamation.” His use of Lincoln brought authority into his speech.

Martin Luther King is bringing attention to the authority of Lincoln and his view on civil rights. This is providing a strong ethos appeal and establishing credibility with his audience. He also uses the Declaration of Independence to bring authority into his speech. He quotes, “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. His use of this quote is to use a supreme authority as being on his side. He is saying that the American government has ignored their duty to all of the American people. He is setting up his own credibility by referring to authority of a great American and our constitution.

Martin Luther King’s use of pathos is astonishing as he appeals emotionally to both races of people. His use of the bible verse ‘“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together,” emotionally draws his audience. He is using the bible as common interest among his crowd and to build a connection between the different races. He appeals to freedom throughout his speech to keep his audience engaged in his fight for freedom. He states, “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” He uses the American dream to appeal to all Americans.

He is saying that his dream is part of the American dream that we all deserve to have the freedom to dream. He also uses the appeal that he is a father and that he wants more for his children. “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 the content of their character.” This is allowing the listener to relate to him as a father and the aspirations we hold for our children. It provides a human appeal and demonstrates pathos.

Martin Luther King also uses logos in his analogies. He states, “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” His analogy is using logic as a form of reasoning. He reasons is that everyone understands money and that the listener is able to relate to being handed a bad check.

Martin Luther King’s skillful and articulate use of rhetoric in his “I Have a Dream” speech was a major turning point in American history and represented a firm stand for equal rights. He spoke out to confront the issues of racism in our nation. This speech was a remarkable moment in the fight for equal rights of everyone. “When all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing,” “Free at last! Free at last!”

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