Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Dr.Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream!’" - Prof.M.S.Rao

47 years ago, on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his historical speech “I Have a Dream” from Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC where he called for racial equality through Civil Rights Movement in America. His speech is regarded as one of the greatest historical speeches. It calls for adequate research and provides several takeaways for the lovers of public speaking. The time has come to highlight the relevance, importance, impact and influence of his speech.

We have other historical orators like Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, James Monroe, Mark Twain, Swami Vivekananda, Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler, General George Patton, Eisenhower, and John F Kennedy. However Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech stands unique and taller in the history of mankind. What made his speech stand out from other leaders? Let us find out the same.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech is unique as he delivered from historical Lincoln Memorial. It was a rhetorical masterpiece. He emphasized the key points and phrases. He was very choosy in his words. It was a persuasive speech with emphasize on key aspects. Dr. King’s speech was a fervent appeal to both whites and blacks where the former regret their misbehaviors and the latter to fight for equality peacefully.

He used ‘we’ number of times, not ‘I’. He used ‘I’ only in one sentence ‘I have a dream!’ He recalled God like Lincoln invoked God. At the end of the speech he departed from the original draft and spoke and that added extra touch to his speech. Let us find out few more secrets from the perspective of public speaking.

Secrets behind the Successful Speech:

• He often used ‘we’ followed by ‘freedom’ and ‘our’. It mattered most for making the speech most memorable.
• He edited the script number of times and rehearsed his speech that made it memorable.
• He maintained decency and decorum by not highlighting the ill-treatment of blacks by whites. His entire speech was for racial equality. Precisely, it was not an offensive but defensive speech.
• The location played a crucial role as it was none other than Lincoln’s memorial.
• He created strong emotions and images to touch his audience.
• He connected with blacks and won their sympathy by highlighting about their social and economic plight.
• He made an emotional appeal for racial equality.
• He did not antagonize the whites, but forced them to think the issue from broader and human perspective.
• He used the pace and pauses during the speech appropriately and it made all the difference.
• He painted and projected bright future for blacks by repeatedly saying, ‘I have a dream!’
• His both body and oral language synchronized and conveyed his integrity towards the cause.
• He used silence wherever it was required during his speech as it helped the audience to understand and applaud his speech.
• He focused his entire speech on commonalities but not differences by saying that are all equal.
• Like Lincoln he also invoked God to connect with his audience quickly and emotionally.
• Above all, his charismatic personality made overall impact and influence.


There was total synchronization of vocal, facial and body animation during the entire speech. There was clarity in communication as the rate of speech was slow and steady having pace and appropriates pauses that allowed the audience to understand, appreciate and applaud the message. He moved his head in all directions so that audience had a feeling that he was talking to them.

Toward the end of the speech his body language was more emphatic with confidence that aroused more emotions among the audience. He repeated the key points such as ‘one hundred years later’ and ‘now it is the time’. Although it was a prepared speech he went out of the way to connect with his audience by speaking extempore towards the closing of the speech. He started slowly and gradually built the momentum and finally closing with strong message for racial equality. Precisely, his speech was blend of both head and heart.

Dr. King’s speech is going to impact and influence the born and unborn. To conclude, for making the speech successful and memorable, it is essential to use imagery and emotional appeal. Use small and short sentences. Give pauses wherever required. Include emotional elements. Use transition points effectively. Call for an effective action at the end. Above all, remember that it is the quality not the quantity that counts at the end of your speech.


Kirti said...

Nice article on public speaking


Mathews Philip said...

I honestly felt emotional listening to that famous speech rendition by one of the greats. This writeup justifies it in all senses.