Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have A Dream Speech

2512 words - 11 pages

In his book On the Sublime, Longinus rhetorically identifies five principal elements to the art of mastering sublimity, through the use of written texts. Longinus defines sublimity as, “a kind of eminence or excellence of discourse […] sublimity on the other hand, produced at the right moment, tears everything up like a whirlwind and exhibits the orator’s power at a single blow” (Longinus 347). However, there is great jeopardy when writers seek to produce subliminal messages. Longinus describes the difference between messages being falsely and truly sublime. He characterizes false sublimity as “puerile” and bombastic. True sublimity will touch the audience’s heart; it goes beyond words, allowing emotion to run through. Furthermore, Longinus outlines the five rhetorical principles in order to achieve sublimity. (1) Ethos: Greatness of Thoughts, (2) Pathos: Emotion, (3) Pathos: Figures of Speech, (4) Logos: Nobile Diction, and (5) Logos: Arrangement. Notably, blacks for year’s fought hard to receive equal rights to those whites had. The late 1950s, early 1960s was a turning point for African-Americans with the establishment of the Civil Rights Era. The Civil Rights Era represented a social movement for blacks in hopes of ending racial segregation and discrimination, especially in the Jim Crow Deep South. At the forefront of this movement was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who sought equality for the poor, victims of injustice, and African-Americans, by advocating peaceful protests. On August 28, 1963, King delivered one of the most memorable speeches of all time during the March on Washington. The mastering of Longinus’s five principals of the sublime is exemplified in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Moreover, the last couple of minutes of King’s speech is one of the most memorable parts. King sets his written speech aside, and starts speaking from the heart when he says, “I have a dream that my four 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” (AmericanRhetoric.com). More importantly, in this paper, I will use Longinus’s five principal sources of sublimity as my foundation, and compare it to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and how his speech epitomizes what it means to have a text that is sublime.
Greatness of Thoughts
Martin Luther King knew from the moment he stepped foot on stage that his speech had an urgency and a purpose. The March on Washington was not something to go in vain, there was a reason for why some 250,000 people were there, and that purpose was to demonstrate and expose the racial inequalities blacks faced. Above all, Dr. King knew that his speech was not just for the people surrounding him, but also for people all across America. Longinus notes on page 350, “natural greatness, is the most important. Even if it is a matter of endowment rather than acquisition, we must, so far as is possible, develop our minds in the direction of greatness and...

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