What are some examples of logos in the "I Have a Dream" speech?

Examples of logos in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech are his references to the Emancipation Proclamation, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence and his appeal to his audience to use the lessons of the historical past to imagine a future in which his dreams become reality.

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In book 1, part 2 of Rhetoric, written about 350 BCE, Aristotle defines three kinds, or "modes," of persuasive speaking:

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds.

The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [known as ethos]; the...

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In book 1, part 2 of Rhetoric, written about 350 BCE, Aristotle defines three kinds, or "modes," of persuasive speaking:

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds.

The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [known as ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [known as pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [known as logos].

Logos, an appeal to logic, is a way of persuading others to believe a particular point of view or to take a particular course of action through reason, with facts, or by making historical or literary references or analogies.

In his "I Have A Dream" speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. begins his speech with an historical reference to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (known as "The March On Washington") that was happening that very day.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

This bold statement firmly establishes the logos of the speech, which King emphasizes and reinforces with an immediate reference to Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. King also employs ethos, in the sense that the reference to Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation are appeals to a higher moral character and a higher authority.

King relates the Emancipation Proclamation to the factual plight of the African American "one hundred years later," and he also draws on the factual higher authority of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, which "guaranteed the 'unalienable Rights' of 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'" as models for the future.

King then essentially abandons the persuasive mode of logos and relies on the modes of ethos and pathos for the remainder of the speech.

Interestingly, however, King returns to an aspect of the mode of logos to which Aristotle refers in in book 3, parts 16 and 17 of Rhetoric. Aristotle observes that by reminding listeners of the factual past and by drawing inferences from the past—as King does with his references to Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence—"the hearers may take better counsel about the future."

The essence of King's speech is to move his audience from the factual past into the possible future—"I have a dream that one day..."— and to persuade them and urge them to make his dreams the present reality—"I have a dream today!"

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. uses rhetorical appeal—or what Aristotle calls “modes for persuasion” —in his famous I Have a Dream speech: ethos (appealing to ethics or credibility), logos (appealing to logic), and pathos (appealing to emotion). Perhaps most critical to the success of his speech is his use of logos.

In fact, his second sentence is an undeniable fact: “Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” He follows this immediately with an example of logos:

“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free; one hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination; one hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; one hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.”

His use of repetition functions to “drive the point home” in a logical manner; no one can deny the truth of this statement. Through this logic, he is able to elicit an emotional response from the crowd.

He also uses logos to speak to the personal, individual truths of many audience members:

“I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.”

King phrases this truthful, logical statement in a way that resonates with the victims of police and prison brutality, as well as those who sympathize with the aforementioned struggle, creating comradery as an emotional response to logic. Similarly, he later extends the sentiment of comradery to the white community:

“The marvelous new militancy, which has engulfed the Negro community, must not lead us to a distrust of all white people. For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

Again, his use of repetition aids his rhetoric, as he reminds the crowd that—emotions aside—white allies exist, again eliciting a feeling of comrodery and an emotional response to a logical statement.

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