Analysis of Persuasive Appeals and Rhetorical Strategies

Analysis of Persuasive Appeals and Rhetorical Strategies

The “I Have a Dream Speech” by Martin Luther King is an example of a highly regarded speech on the power of persuasion. The cleric was a vicious defender of the bill of rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution regarding the treatment of the African Americas. At the time of the struggle for civil rights and equal economic rights for all people in the country, the black community suffered injustices in regarding access conomic opportunities. The speech was delivered on March 28th 1963 in Washington during a march to force the American government to respect the rights of black people. This paper will provide insights into the central claim and reason by the author. Similarly, the article will explore Luther King’s background, his audience on that day, the social context of the speech, and the place of publication. The paper will address the author’s use of persuasive appeals in the famous speech. King employed logos and ethos persuasive appeals, and incorporated repetition to emphasize his message during the renowned delivery.

An Explanation of the Context, Purpose, and Audience of the Speech

The “I Have a Dream” speech was a culmination of the agitation efforts by Martin Luther King on civil rights for African Americans. Its central argument was that the people of America were all equal regardless of their skin colour and heritage. Therefore, the Presbyterian cleric was adamant that the American society and its government should recognise the human rights granted to the black people in the constitution. The social context of the speech was against a backdrop racially motivated human rights violations on the black community in the United States. It was delivered during the March on Washington on Jobs and Freedom. King used the speech to agitate for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the country. Also, he addressed the white population in America. Martin Luther King intended to convince the white American community guilty of perpetrating evils against the blacks to shun their destructive practices. The civil rights activist used a combination of persuasive arguments to implore the American public to respect all people.

Analysis of Luther King’s Persuasive Appeals in the Speech

The main intention of the “I Have a Dream Speech” was to persuade the American white community to shun discrimination against African Americans. King hoped to use his persuasion skills to convince the white majority in the United States to grant their African Americans counterparts an equal social and economic platform to succeed. To achieve his objective, Martin Luther employed the skills of persuasion outlined by Aristotle. The speech contains evidence of the persuasion skills ethos and logos. The logos dimension of persuasion is contingent upon using logic as an agent of persuasion. King based his arguments on the definition. He said that “America signed a promissory note to all citizens…that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” (King Jr., 1963). He argued that American society and its government were unfair in their treatment of the black population. The speech told the white people that the time for the racial segregation and unequal opportunities on social and economic aspects on Africans Americans were coming to an end. He argued that it was long enough since the declaration of independence and the time was right for an equal America.

Martin Luther also used ethos to try to reinforce the impact of his message. He used his reputation as a respected member of the clergy to reinvigorate his message that open discrimination against Africans was wrong. King was on record that day arguing that “the time was right to make justice a reality for all of God’s children” (King Jr., 1963). As a reputable leader of one of the mainstream churches America and the world, he exploited on his position to speak authoritatively on Godly matters.  He stressed that justice had to be served to the black man; otherwise, skirmishes were always due. The use of his credibility as a respected member of the society was also fundamental to enhancing his message on end to racial inequality and discrimination in contemporary America.

The speech delivered by Martin Luther on that famous day was meticulously organised to have the desired persuasive effect. His first words conveyed a strong emotion and excitement at being gathered at the place of the demonstration. He cleverly linked past historical events with the reason for their decision to pick at the location in Washington. The first detail of his speech conveyed optimism he felt towards the iconic Emancipation Proclamation which was supposed to grant equal social and economic rights to all people. Next, he delivered his disappointment on the exclusion of African Americans from the agreement. The way he expressed his dissatisfaction portrayed a man keen to emphasize the ills of the American public towards the minority black community. The repetition of the phrase “one hundred years later” expressed his conviction that the plight of African Americans was inevitably concluding. Also, he used metaphors to communicate his ideas. The use of symbolic elements of the speech made enhanced the clarity of his message.


The “I Have a Dream Speech” by Martin Luther King was organised expertly using the ethos and logos strong elements of speech to deliver the intended message with utter conviction. King effectively his reputation as a respected member of a mainstream church in the United States to implore upon the white community in the United States to embrace equality and justice. Also, he used logic to try and persuade the white majority members of the population in the United States that freedom to every man was a cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence. He brought to the attention that the forefathers of the nation felt it was important for all men, irrespective of their colour to be treated fairly and with dignity. The impeccable organisation and delivery of the speech were critical towards making improving the civil rights cause in the United States.