"I Have a Dream" Speech Questions and Answers
by Martin Luther King Jr.

"I Have a Dream" Speech book cover
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What are two effective vocal strategies Martin Luther King, Jr. uses in the second half of his "I Have a Dream" speech? How were these strategies used to convey King's message more powerfully?

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Beginning with his rhetorical repetition of "I have a dream," two effective vocal strategies Martin Luther King, Jr. uses in his "I Have a Dream" speech are pause and pitch inflection.

Effective public speakers use pauses between points to emphasize them and let their points sink into the minds of the audience. King effectively uses pauses after each time he says the word dream and even varies the length of the pauses. For example, the pause between the words dream and that in the sentence beginning with "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up" is twice the length of the pause after he says the clause, "I still have a dream." Both pauses create dramatic emphasis, but the second pause is even more dramatic because it falls where there is no punctuation. The dramatic second pause gives him time to accumulate the breath support he needs to powerfully rise in pitch inflection upon the word one.

Aside from pauses, King also uses rises and drops in pitch inflection to create emphasis and emotional impact. One example of varied pitch inflection can be seen in the sentence, "It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream." In the word American, King rises in inflection at the syllable -mer; he then begins dropping in inflection starting at the syllables -i and -can. King's greatest drop in inflection occurs at the word dream. His rise during the word American helps capture the fact that, despite Americans' failings, King values and has faith in his country. His dramatic drop at the word dream helps capture his sorrow that African American's own dreams for freedom still have not yet been fulfilled in America, despite the fact that their dreams are deeply "rooted in the American dream."

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