How does Martin Luther King's use of delivery in his "I Have A Dream" speech help create impact in the audience, such as the use of pauses, eye contact, body language, etc? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Set on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, after the long march to Washington in a demonstration for freedom, the motif of liberation became an effective backdrop for Dr. Martin Luther King's famous Civil Rights speech. And, as the son of a preacher and a preacher himself, King employed the intonations of the majority of preachers of the black churches whose words were impassioned and replete with rhetoric.  In their sermons, these preachers often repeated phrases and paused for the congregation to say "Amen" or other words of agreement such as "All right, all right."  In this way, the listeners were drawn emotionally into the content of the sermon.  These effective pauses were utilized by King, who turned his head from side to side slowly, looking at all the people.

Brillantly written as a stirring text of rhetoric, King concerned himself with his delivery as well.  His effective use of pauses for people to digest the meaning and significance of his words, and the crescendo of his voice after the third repetition of a phrase or sentence, was extremely stirring.  In addition, his diction aroused emotion, as well.  For instance, King employed metaphor, allusions to the Bible, and allusions to history and the Declaration of Independence.  His reference to the concept of freedom in this Declaration for all who came to America lends viability to the argument for civil rights for blacks. And, to underscore the import of his own words, Dr. King then inserted words from Holy Scripture, such as this paragraph:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This tying together of the blacks' present situation with the Biblical verse, triggered their perception of themselves as much like the Israelites who sought the Promised Land.  For, the "Promised Land" is now the United States as a country of equal opportunity.

At the end of his speech, Dr. King delivered a few sentences, then chose a new theme; he recited the first stanza of “My Country, Tis of Thee” concluding with the line “from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” With these words delivered with his powerful voice and  dignified manner, Dr. Martin Luther King, who used many effective rhetorical devices and mannerisms throughout his speech, forcefully concluded "I Have a Dream" speech of 1963.