"I've Been to the Mountaintop" Speech

by Martin Luther King Jr.

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How do the speeches "I've Been to the Mountaintop" and "Remaining Awake" by Martin Luther King Jr. compare and contrast?

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Compare and contrast essays are ultimately about taking two separate topics (or, in this case, two speeches), looking at them both separately and in connection with each other, and then working to discern what they have in common and where they diverge. From that perspective, your first task is to read both speeches to see what they say and how they say it. At the same time, it would be useful to consider the larger context behind the two speeches—when they were written and what was going on in the world and in Martin Luther King's career—to try to get a deeper sense for how they might interact.

In this case, you're looking at two speeches, "I've Been to the Mountaintop" and "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution." The first of these was given in 1968, at the end of Martin Luther King's life. The second is trickier, because King seems to have given several speeches entitled "Remaining Awake" over the years. To my knowledge, 1968's appears to have been the most famous of them, and I've assumed it's the version your question addressed, but be aware that there are other versions out there. Make sure you know which version you're looking at and when it was given, because that's where you find the context. In any case, the specific context matters. If you're looking specifically at the year 1968, you'll see that the Civil Rights Movement had split with the rise of a more radical generation of leaders—such as Malcolm X, who was himself assassinated in 1965. Additionally, there was a great deal of turmoil in the United States surrounding the Vietnam War.

With this in mind, it's time to consider the two speeches themselves, and here we need to consider what they have in common and what separates them. Ultimately, to write this essay, it's all about asking questions of the texts. Do they focus on the same theme? Is one more topical than the other? Are they concerned with different moral problems? Is the rhetoric different? Does King draw on different examples to illustrate his points? Is one more optimistic, or combative, or reflective in tone than the other? Asking these kinds of questions should give you some idea as to where the two speeches differ, providing one half of the assignment.

For the other half, you need to look at what the two speeches have in common. Keep in mind that they're from the same speaker, and that should give you certain expectations. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian minister by vocation, and his rhetoric was immersed in a moral vision. Also, remember that he advocated civil disobedience. Can you see any of these larger themes reflected in both speeches? Do you see similarities between their rhetoric, or in the examples King gives to illustrate his points, or in the concerns he expresses about the battles which need to be fought?

When looking for similarities and differences, you should ultimately be reading these speeches from two different perspectives. The first perspective is focused on the message: that is, what is King aiming to achieve with his speech? The second is focused on the rhetoric: how does he actually communicate this message to the audience?

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Please help me write an essay comparing and contrasting two Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches: "I've Been to the Mountaintop" and "Remaining Awake."

Comparing and contrasting are two important skills to understand. When comparing two things, you are finding the similarities between them. When contrasting two things, you are finding the differences between them.

The first step you should take is to find some background information on each speech, such as when and where the speech was given. This information will help you write your introduction and conclusion paragraphs.

The next step you should take before writing your essay is to carefully read and annotate each speech. When you annotate a text, you add your own notes to it. You can also give explanations, definitions, or comments on the text. I personally would make a copy of each speech and write my notes on the actual speech. This way, you can highlight, underline, and circle important information and also write notes. I would first look for similarities between the two speeches and then I would annotate again, looking for differences.

Once you have at least three similarities and three differences, you can start to write your essay.

I would begin by writing the introduction paragraph and focusing on your thesis statement. Because I am not sure of your exact prompt, I can only give some suggestions. If this is an informative essay, you would begin with background information. You would then write your thesis statement such as: Martin Luther King Jr. wrote and delivered many speeches such as his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" and his "Remaining Awake" speeches; his speeches have many similarities and many differences, but they still impact the world today.

Next, you would use your research to write your first body paragraph discussing similarities. Be sure to use specific evidence and to cite your sources.

Using a transition sentence, you will write a second body paragraph about the differences between the speeches. Again, cite your sources and use specific evidence.

For your conclusion paragraph, if this is an informative essay, be sure to summarize the main idea of your essay, restate your thesis statement, and make a connection to something else. This connection can be text-to-self, text-to-text (in your case), or text-to-world.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of where to begin. Good luck!

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