“I Have a Dream” Speech Analysis & Outline

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Dr. Martin Luther King’s most impactful speech was perhaps the “I Have a Dream” speech given in August of 1963 to nearly 200,000 supporters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and also televised to millions. The speech is know not only for its content, but also King’s rhythmic delivery of the words themselves, which captivated an entire generation. The first portion of the speech depicts a sad American nightmare of unjust racial divide and how men are seen differently from one another. King calls to action the ‘promises of democracy,’ proclaiming now to be the time for change, and without procrastination. He commands civil rights activists and men of all kinds to never be satisfied with conditions as long as the “ Negro is the victim of unspeakable horrors of police brutality” (King, 1963). He names the wrongs done against blacks and people of color, stating that they must not stop their march until those wrongs have stopped.

The second part of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech goes into his dream for a better America, where racial divides are no more and integration is harmonized into every way of life throughout the United States. This portion of the speech is where he continually repeats the phrase, “I have a dream.” His dream is meant to show how life should and can be for African Americans, Whites and men of every racial type. He inspired people by proclaiming the difficulties faced in that time and having hope despite such difficulties. King said, “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream” (King, 1963). This showed his forthright motivation to reach his dream despite difficulty in life and liberty. King also went on to quote a line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address speech where he proclaimed, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” (King, 1963 – Lincoln, 1863).

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By quoting Lincoln, especially this phrase, he reinstated consideration toward the fundamentals that this country was founded upon, and further strengthened his speech through the use of such a strong figure such as Lincoln. King’s words showed that he held no extended anger toward those who have suppressed his ancestors when he stated that he hoped the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners would one day be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood. This showed his true dream of unity among all races. King’s speech continued with this form of hope and vision for the future. He described what he hoped for the children of the future, and his desires for freedom and true justice. He expressed his dream specifically for his own children, stating that he hoped one day his children would “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” (King, 1963). King’s speech concludes with the inclusion of all races in his dream of unity, justice, brotherhood and, foremost – freedom. “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, free at last!” (King, 1963).

Outline for “I Have a Dream” Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King:
1. Opening
Thanks the people for joining him
Speaks of Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation
2. Difficulties of the time
Explains how the ‘Negro’ is still not free
Proclaims how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution applies to every man in America
3. Calls to Attention
Explains how the time to act is ‘Now’
Commands everyone to not be satisfied until injustice stops
Demands that protest and struggle be in dignity and peace
4. His Dream
Proclaims his visions of hope for the future
Explains how peace can be achieved toward happier times
Concludes with inspirational words of hope

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