Does Martin Luther King use logos in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

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Martin Luther King uses logos throughout the speech. He says that the words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence make promises of freedom and equality to all Americans, and it is quite clear from all the evidence that these promises have not been kept. He even employs a...

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Martin Luther King uses logos throughout the speech. He says that the words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence make promises of freedom and equality to all Americans, and it is quite clear from all the evidence that these promises have not been kept. He even employs a series of rather dry metaphors drawn from banking to ensure that the logical point is not clouded by emotion.

Dr. King points out that black and white people have to live together, and the freedom of each is dependent on the other. This is the rational foundation for his plea for non-violence:

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Although the speech rises to a crescendo of powerful rhetoric and many of the ideas are couched in highly emotive terms, Dr. King is fundamentally advocating for a reasoned and temperate middle course between violence and surrender. The repeated examples of the abuses which African Americans will no longer tolerate are set against the disciplined and dignified manner in which they must struggle against these abuses.

The speech uses pathos a great deal, but if it did not rest on the firm foundation of logos, it would not still be read and studied today.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. utilized all three of Aristotle's rhetorical appeals—ethos, pathos, and logos—in his famous and powerful "I Have a Dream" speech. Ethos and pathos may be easier to recognize, but logos, or an appeal to logic and reason, is present as well.

Dr. King uses logos early on in his speech by specifically listing the facts of discrimination:

We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed "five score years ago," freeing African Americans from slavery, but, Dr. King asks, how can a person really be free when subjected to police brutality and excluded from access to basic services, like staying in a hotel when traveling?

Dr. King's logos appeal can also be found in the direct way he quotes the Declaration of Independence, which is a foundation of our democracy:

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 truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

If these "truths" are "self-evident," then, Dr. King pointedly inquires, how can our nation continue to exclude members of its populace from that which its populace is entitled to by the very beliefs on which our nation was founded?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream" speech remains a powerful example of how logic and reason can be used to augment one's persuasive appeal.

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Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech is a powerful work of oratory, combining both eloquence and logic to make its point. There is an argument running underneath the speech, from its earliest paragraphs, that the freedom embedded within United States' very founding have remained unfulfilled, and will remain unfulfilled until racial equality has been achieved. King uses very powerful oratory to present this message, simultaneously working as an appeal to the emotions as well as to intellect. The message is a powerful one, making reference to the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, all the way back to the Declaration of Independence, and King grounds his message in concrete reality (both historical and contemporary) as well as in the ideals these documents, and the country itself, were founded upon (and these ideals of universal justice and equality are not only cited but also illustrated and embodied in the last section of the speech). This speech provides a vision of what this country should be, drawn on a profound understanding as to the values the United States would claim to uphold, and the degree to which it has failed.

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Logos is an appeal to logic, a way to persuade the reader or listener by using reason. In Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, several examples of logos can be found. Consider the following quote: "When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir." King appeals to logic in the sense that what has been denied to African Americans is something that was promised to all. He uses the example of a check with "insufficient funds" as a representation of this broken promise.

A second example of logos can be found when King states that "In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds." King implies the logic that actions have consequences. He persuades African Americans to continue on their quest for freedom, but to do so within the law.

King again appeals to logic when he says of white people, "They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom." Here, King attempts to persuade white people to join the movement for equal rights by tying their freedoms to those of African Americans.

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