Emma Duffy

Sandra Alden
English-003-102
17 February 2014

A Rhetorical Analysis: Martin Luther King Jr.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood tall in the blistering summer heat.
Standing at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. he prepared himself to give a speech that
later would change America. In the 1960’s the discrimination of the “free” black man was
evident almost everywhere and Martin Luther King Jr. wanted an end to it. By giving this
famous speech King hoped to display the severe inequalities black Americans faced through the
methods of Mohandas Gandhi and the use of ethos, pathos, and logos.
In earlier years, king was born into a financially stable African American family. Though
the family was financially stable, King faced racial discrimination. At a fairly young age King
rode a bus with his fellow classmates and was shocked to see that the black men and women had
to stand while the white people got to sit (Wilson). This was one of many incidents to ignite the
fire in Martin Luther King’s heart to fight for equal rights among race. At age 15 King attended
Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia. Following that he attended Pennsylvania and Boston
University to get his P.h.D. Martin Luther King was an educated man that fought for his beliefs.
Not only was he an educated man, but he was also a spiritual and philosophical man. King was a
minister which helped him gain extra credibility with his audience. Also King used many of
Mohandas Gandhi's philosophy techniques to help him gain respect from the people that
supported his ideas of equality. Something that made Martin Luther King Jr. a respectable
activist was his non violent approach which was influenced by one of Gandhis philosophies.
These events all lead King to give one of the most influential speeches of all time; “I Have a
Dream.” In order to convey his dream of equality among race, Martin Luther King Jr.
incorporated Ethos, Pathos, and Logos while following philosophies of Gandhi to appeal to his
entire audience
Standing tall with dignity, Martin Luther King Jr. waited at the podium to give a speech
that would change America as he knew it. As he began to speak he gave off an undeniable sense
of power. His voice shook with anger at the lack of change in American since the Emancipation
Proclamation, but filled with hope when he talked about freedom ringing around America.
King’s demeanor is strong and inspiring, making the audience intrigued with every word. King
gained credibility by having a P.h.D. and and gained respect by his approach to the situation.Like
gandhi, he believed in a non-violent protest (Rosenberg 1). While he was outraged by the lack of
understanding some white’s had towards blacks, he wanted to go about the issue in a respectable,
non-threatening way. He displays etho’s in this speech while following Gandhi's tactics by
saying, “...And that is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold
which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be
guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the
cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity
and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
(King). In that statement King openly says that he wants justice to be served, however he wants
it to be earned with dignity and discipline opposed to violence. This nonviolent appeal is an
ethos argument because it shows his morality. He promotes his non violence by showing a great
deal of character. King knows that the black Americans are being treated is unfair, however he
doesn’t want to fight back unfairly.
Martin Luther King’s voice fluctuated throughout this speech matching the emotions
behind his words. One second King’s voice was flooded with anger and the next it would be
filled with hope and passion. His voice would fluctuate the most when he used pathos arguments
to sway his audience. For instance, when he says, “I say to you today, my friends, though, 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. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the
true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal.”(King) This pathos appeal is an attempt to instill hope in the listeners. Even though times
were tough for those not of the white race, King wanted everyone to stay optimistic for the
future, like himself. Also he wanted everyone to know that he was trying to promote a dream that
he had for America in the 1960’s. This idea is relatable to a philosophy of Gandhi’s. Gandi
states, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man
changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” Martin Luther
King wants everyone to see his dream and work towards it as he is by giving the speech and
participating in nonviolent protests. By giving off a positive ora, King hopes to get positive
results for race equality.
Emotions and ethics can gain the audience's attention by pulling at their heart strings and
confirm their own beliefs, but putting facts into the equation is a foolproof way to get the
audience thinking. Facts are unarguable. Martin Luther King incorporates facts throughout the
speech to help the audience really understand the injustice black people are facing in America.
For example King says, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the
unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”(King). This is a fact King displays to his audience to
display the severe the inequality among race. Being a man of nonviolent ways, police brutality
goes completely against his morals that are much like Mahatma Gandhis. He goes on to say,
“We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of
their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in
Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.”
This logos appeal takes the facts that blacks are not allowed in certain places. They are free, but
not equal. Martin Luther King Jr. wants blacks to be able to take part in the democratic systems
of America, and will not stop his protests until justice is served. Again, this mindset is relatable
to Mahatma Gandis. Gandhi worked his entire life to make even the poorest citizens of India
equal to those of britain (Rosenberg 1). He overall wanted to better the lives of others and end
the embarrassment of discrimination, much like Martin Luther King.
Martin Luther King Jr. Changed America with his uniting speech. By using the
philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and ethos, pathos, and logos appeals, he gained the respect of his
massive audience. A year later he won the Nobel Peace Prize. What started as a plea for racial
equality, resulted in the acceptance of blacks in America. Martin Luther King Jr.’s influence
speech is still alive and aspiring generation after generation to fight respectively for what they
believe to be right.








Work Cited
King, Martin Luther, Jr. "I Have a Dream." Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. 28 Aug. 1963.
Speech.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Biography of Mahatma Gandhi”, in Who Was Gandhi? pp.1. Web. Dec. 4.
2006
Wilson. H.W. "Martin Luther King, Jr.", in Current Biography Yearbook 1965, ed. by Charles
Moritz, pp. 220-223. New York, April. 21. 2001.