Do the omission of specific objections weaken Dr. King's argument in Letter from Birmingham City Jail? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Certainly, specific arguments can be raised that Dr. King failed to address.  Yet, I believe that these omissions do not weaken his argument in his letter.  Dr. King's case is so profoundly made and so morally transformative that it transcends the omission of specific arguments.  What is presented is so profound in its reach and scope that Dr. King does not have to be tethered to recalling specific points. It is here where the work is meaningful.  It is not really a political treatise.  While there are significant political elements to it, Dr. King's articulation of his position is more philosophical idea and spiritual revelation.  In these contexts, one is not really seeing what arguments are present.  It is here where his omission is not really that essential in terms of the position struck in it.  When Dr. King cites Thoreau and Gandhi, it is clear that he wishes to achieve a moral and spiritual transformation in American Society.  Dr. King is aiming for a vision of what can be as opposed to what is.  In striving to articulate this large of a vision, one that will forever change what American society can and will be, one recognizes that Dr. King is not really concerned with meting out argument for argument.  He is concerned with something larger.  It is this concern that drives the letter, making it a powerful work of American literature and thought and one in which specific omissions are not hurtful to its overall ideas.


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