Feature Image for Speech Analysis of 'I Have A Dream'

Drawing Public Speaking Lessons from ‘I Have A Dream’ (Speech Analysis)

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

-Martin luther king, jr.

Since time immemorial, we have been witnessing heart-wrenching instances of racial injustices in America. While the extent has reduced in the recent times, that hasn’t always been the case.

Be it the killing of George Floyd or the act of Amy Cooper making false allegations against a black man in Central Park, we continue to witness such sad incidents of racial discrimination, even in today’s times.

Almost sixty years ago, One Black Man delivered One Speech with One Belief and revolutionized the pathway towards Racial Justice in America.

This man is none other than Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr who delivered the speech, ‘I Have A Dream’ from the steps of Lincoln Memorial.

Throughout the course of this speech, he brought to light his belief of constructing an American Society characterized by peace, brotherhood and harmony.

To top it all, this heart-felt speech that ignited millions of minds to walk on the path of racial justice and civil rights, has a lot of public speaking lessons in store for you.   

Watch the full speech here.

A Quick Overview

Martin Luther King Portrait

Born and brought up in Atlanta, Georgia, a city afflicted by cases of racial injustices, Martin Luther King faced racial segregation in his day-to-day life.

Having done his doctorate in Systematic Theology from Boston University and established himself as a member of Baptist Church, he firmly believed that the act of racial segregation and discrimination is a disgrace to God’s will and thus, equality must prevail in the society.

He then pledged to fight back against the racial injustices and stood up for the rights of African-Americans.

From the Montgomery Bus Boycott which marked his presence as a national leader fighting against racial discrimination to the American Civil Rights Movement which resulted in the passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964, his contributions to the American Society are remarkable.  To list a few-

With front seats being reserved ‘For Whites Only!’ and the black people being forced to opt for back seats in any given bus, it was considered an obligation on the part of Black people to give up their bus seats so that white passengers could sit on those seats.

The instance where Rosa Parks denied to give up her seat during one such travel and got arrested, stimulated the famous movement of ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott’.

Martin Luther King then formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) . This organization comprised of black civil rights leaders and called for the existence of an integrated American Society. With the rise in cases of racial segregation and violence against black people, it became essential for people to raise their voices against this growing injustice and gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement.

One of the most pivotal achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr include the speech, ‘I Have A Dream’.  

The Main Message Of ‘I Have A Dream’

Listed as one of the most iconic speeches in the world history, ‘I Have A Dream’ was centered around the themes of: 

  • Racial justice and civil rights 
  • Improvement in the socio-political and economic status of African-Americans 
  • Equality and freedom for all 
  • The idea of Great American Dream calling for a more accepting society

History and Importance Of The Speech- ‘I Have A Dream’

Aimed towards bringing an end to racial injustice in the American Society, a nation-wide March was organized on 28th August, 1963. 

This Nation-wide March of 1963 stood out as one of the largest public demonstration march in the history of United States Of America.

Events Leading To ‘The Washington March Of 1963’

The year 1960s saw a great upheaval in terms of public demonstrations demanding for racial justice. In spite of this, there was an urgent need to organize one united demonstration against all forms of racial injustices because different protests were being organized for different sorts of racial injustices.

Due to this very reason, the prominent leaders came together and organized ‘Washington March of 1963’ in order to have an enhanced impact on the authorities as well as the mass population.

How Was ‘Washington March Of 1963’ Organized?

History of 'I Have A Dream'

The public demonstrations advocating for racial freedom and equality in employment opportunities came together and gave rise to ‘The Great March of 1963’.

Bearing in mind the significance of this march, it was organized at Lincoln Memorial in Washington to recall the legacy of Abraham Lincoln who first brought light to the lives of Black People by freeing them from slavery.

Holding a crowd of around 250,000 people, this March called for equality in employment opportunities and at the same time, called for civil rights of African-Americans. 

Unlike most of the public demonstrations organized then and now, this march actually brought a paradigm shift in legislative terms with the passage of American Civil Rights Act in 1964 which abolished the practice of racial segregation and discrimination in all public spaces.

Not to forget, it gave birth to one of the most iconic speeches in the history of the world, that is, ‘I Have A Dream’. 

‘I Have A Dream’- Factual Information

Duration Of The Speech16 Minutes
Date28th August, 1963
Venue The Lincoln Memorial, Washington
EventThe Nation-wide March for racial justice and civil rights
Impact of The SpeechPaved the way for the passage of American Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

ANALYSIS OF THE SPEECH- ‘I HAVE A DREAM’

As you have now understood the crux of Martin Luther King’s Speech, let us analyze the speech through:

1. Speech Writing Lessons

2. Public Speaking Lessons

3. Speech Delivery Lessons

4. Audience Analysis

But, before we jump on to the public speaking lessons, we advise you to keep the speech draft handy for a better understanding. 

1. Speech Writing Lessons from ‘I Have A Dream’

‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ 

– Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr

This quote sums up the core essence of the speech. 

So, let’s now sum up the speech by studying the basic structure of the speech:

Beginning Of The Speech- The Question Of ‘What Have We Done So Far?’

Considering the fact that this speech was being delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, it began by paying a tribute to the Great American President, ‘Abraham Lincoln’ and his contributions to the American Society (particularly, the Emancipation Proclamation which brought an end to slavery).  

As the speech progressed, King stressed on the fact that we must take Lincoln’s legacy forward to bring an end to the racial segregation existing in the then society.  

Check out the article ‘How to start a speech- writing an interesting introduction‘ to ace the art of drafting an amazing introduction.

Body Of The Speech- ‘Where Do We Stand Now?’

This section dealt with the then present scenario which involved an urgent addressal of the social injustices against the African-American community. 

It brought to notice the social injustices like:  

A) Police brutality, 

B) Segregation,  

C) The act of depriving the African-Americans from the right to vote and,  

D) The discrimination on the basis of race in public domain. 

Thus, Martin Luther King urged his listeners to unite together in order to bring an end to a years-long history of racial discrimination and segregation.  

Even while urging people to unite, he approached people from all walks of life and different races to continue demanding for the long due rights of African-Americans in a non-violent way. 

End Of The Speech- The Question Of ‘The Way Forward?’

This is the most intriguing, crucial and famous part of this speech. 

In this section, he portrays the goals in the form of his own dreams. 

This section showcases the dreams of racial justice, peace, harmony and brotherhood in American Society.

Most of all, the dream of an American Society where people are not judged based on the color of their skin but the content of their character.  

We have listed a few hacks for you in the article ‘How to end your speech with maximum impact?‘.

Just like the television series ‘Dark’ where ‘the end is the beginning’, the speech ‘I Have A Dream’ laid the foundation stone for the beginning of the civil rights movement and influenced millions of mindsets.

In a nutshell, the speech can be best described by using the technique of ‘5Ws1H’:

What?It brought to notice the issue of racial segregation and discrimination
Who?against the African-Americans
Where?in the American Society
When?It called for an urgent need to address the situation in the then present scenario
Why?because of the the social injustices and the act of depriving them from the basic civil rights 
How?by following non-violent means of protest

Title Your Speech Right!

The title ‘I Have A Dream’ arouses curiosity in our minds as to ‘what is this dream about?’ and since a dream is something we all share in common, you are now intrigued to know more.

Thus, the title of your speech helps the audience to decide whether they want to listen to you or not.

While an intriguing title can help you attract your audience, a boring title can result in you losing your audience.

But, hold on, the word ‘boring’ in itself sounds pretty daunting, isn’t it? So, how exactly do you go about titling your speech right?

The most important thing to remember here is to know who your target audience is and then, draft the title accordingly.

Well, let’s simplify the process of titling your speech by looking at ‘What makes a killer speech title?’:

Sense Of Intrigue

Just like the trailer of a great movie, the title needs to generate some intrigue in the minds of the audience. You wish to provide the audience with the theme of your speech but remember not to give the whole idea away. It’s the unanswered questions in the minds of the audience that will help you attract your audience.

Examples:

Creating A Possible Conflict

Every time you watch a movie. there’s either a want or a conflict that drives the entire narrative and at times, puts you as a viewer in an uncomfortable space where you just can’t wait to know ‘what happens next’.

In a similar fashion, a conflicting title can put your audience in a sense of discomfort and will lure your audience in.

Thus, create a title that is conflicting but related with the core idea of your speech. When done right, the audience would naturally be drawn towards your speech and would want to know more!

Examples:

Out-Of-The-World Title

Many a times, we come across something we haven’t ever heard of and are naturally drawn to know more about the same. The question of. ‘What exactly is it?‘, is powerful enough to make the audience curious.

Remember the first time you heard the phrase, ‘Orange is the new black’? Well, such thought-provoking titles keep the core essence of your speech alive in the minds of the audience for a long period of time.

Examples:

Get Familiar With ‘The Unfamiliar’

Something unusual yet related to the speech can also assist you to hold attention of your audience. Thus, a title which sounds unfamiliar but in actuality, binds with the idea of your speech is just right for you to get the needful done.

Examples:

2. Public Speaking Lessons from ‘I Have A Dream’

Spatio-Temporal Element

Spatio-Temporal Element

Now, you might be thinking as to why is geography bothering you in a public speaking lesson, right? 

Well, consider it to be that important lesson which you skip before an exam but it ends up playing a vital role during the assessment of your performance. 

It states that you need to mention the significance of the place and the time at which you are delivering a particular speech. 

For instance, while delivering the speech ‘I Have A Dream’, Martin Luther King mentioned: 

  • the significance of the space from where he was delivering the speech, that is, The Lincoln Memorial.  

Thus, he took a moment to pay a tribute to Abraham Lincoln before he dived into the essence of his speech. 

  • For the element of time, he mentioned the significance of the date on which he was delivering the speech, that is, the event of Nation-wide march being held in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  

Keeping these things in view, include the spatio-temporal element at the beginning of your speech. This way, you will be able to show your audience that you realize the value that the place and the time holds.  

But, how exactly do you go about incorporating this? 

A) Begin Your Speech With A Quote

If the date holds the birthday of a renowned figure and you have been asked to mark the occasion with your speech, it’s ideal to start your speech by a quote given by that renowned figure.

B) Pay A Tribute To The Renowned Figure

You can do this by paying an ode to that figure. Ideally, by remembering his or her contributions to a given field. 

Remember that this is exactly how Martin Luther King began his speech, ‘I Have A Dream, that is, by remembering Lincoln’s pivotal contributions to the United States of America. 

Preparing The Skeleton Of Your Speech

Structuring your speech in the right order is really important. 

brainstorming the structure of speech

Follow the three-act structure of: 

A) Ethos- The Beginning

The beginning of your speech contains ethos and it dictate the success factor of your speech. 

But what exactly is ‘Ethos’? 

Ethos, refers to establishing your credibility as a speaker. The audience must first trust you. Only then, they can accept and respect your point of view on a given topic. 

You can gain the trust of your audience by using relatable references and personal experiences

For example –

In the speech, ‘I Have A Dream’, Martin Luther King started by paying tribute to the great ‘Abraham Lincoln’ and referred to his contributions to the American Society. This made the audience realize that Martin Luther King respects the pivotal contributions to the American Society and thereby, established the trust factor.

Not to forget, keeping in view the short attention span of your audience, the introductory statement must be interesting enough to hold their attention. 

Thus, you may start your speech with a personal experience, a story, a quote or as we mentioned in the above pointer, you may start by taking a moment to showcase that you understand the value that the event and the venue holds.  

Make sure you don’t begin your speech with something that doesn’t relate to the theme of your speech.  

Here, you wish to provide your audience with a basic idea of your speech. 

B) Logos- The Middle

This is the heart and soul of your speech.  

Logos refers to the act of providing your audience with valid reasoning.  

Just gaining the trust of your audience would not work. Making sensible and believable arguments is just as important.  

It provides the audience with a clear understanding of your speech. Here, to provide reasoning, you add facts and tell a personal story by using the statement-problem-solution approach.  

For example-

In the speech, ‘I Have A Dream’, Martin Luther King used the statement-problem-solution approach in the following way: 

Statement: Purpose of the speech, that is, bringing racial justice in the American Society 

Problem: Lists the various social injustices against the African-Americans. To name a few – police brutality, racial segregation and discrimination, the act of depriving them from the right to vote 

Solution: Guides to follow the non-violent path to reinforce the lost justice and cites the ultimate goal of establishing a society where everybody is treated equally and judged on the basis of the content of their character and not the race.  

C) Pathos- The End

Emotions or factual information? What do we tend to remember better? 

Well, of course, we retain emotions for a comparatively longer time. Therefore, it is essential for you to appeal to the sentiments of your audience. 

You have to incorporate emotions through body language, facial expressions and vocal variety throughout the course of your speech to support your statements with just the right emotions.  

This way, the audience will associate a different emotion with each statement you make, enabling them to remember the content vividly. 

So, in the concluding remarks, provide the audience with the gist of your speech supported by just the right emotions so that they remember the core essence of your speech.  

There’s a limit to the information that the human brain tends to retain. So, it’s essential that you sum up the crux of your speech at the end. 

Try being as creative as you can. Use quotes, poetic and rhetorical devices to enhance the emotional impact. 

For example-

In ‘I Have A Dream’, Martin Luther King concluded the speech by using repetition and popular culture references to portray his idea of a free and equal society.  He used references like the Old Testament of Bible and the Patriotic Song – America : My Country, ‘Tis of Thee’. These references appealed to the sentiments of people.

Refer to the summary section of this blog to get a better understanding of the structure of ‘I Have A Dream’.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Structuring a Speech 

Persuasive Elements: Using Rhetorical Devices

Learn the use of rhetorical devices

The use of rhetorical and poetic devices aids to the listening experience of the audience. 

Thus, it keeps your speech alive in the minds of the audience. 

The speech, ‘I Have A Dream’ has plenty of rhetorical and poetic devices. 

Let’s list a few of them: 

A) Anaphora

This rhetorical device involves the repetition of a certain word or phrase at the beginning of consecutive statements. 

When you repeat a word or a phrase twice or thrice for that matter, the audience anticipates further repetition and gets engrossed with the content of your speech. 

The use of this technique marks a swift transition of the speech format from prose to poetry and your speech sounds even more interesting. 

The Impact It Holds

It brings a poetic effect to your speech and persuades your audience by appealing to their sentiments. Repetition guides the audiences’ minds to give due importance to the message you are trying to convey.

It works best in persuasive speeches as it directly appeals to the audiences’ emotions. This helps to inculcate a change in the mindsets of your audience and persuade them into believing your point of view on a given topic.

How To Incorporate ‘Anaphora’ In Your Speech?

Make a decision as to which section is the most crucial in the context of your speech. Once you have decided this, pen down a phrase by referring to your personal experiences. After this step, include that phrase at the beginning of the consecutive statements.

Use ‘anaphora’ as a part of either introductory or concluding remarks of your statement because both introductory and concluding remarks demand you to catch the attention of your audience.

Example

Let’s understand this with reference to the speech, ‘I Have A Dream’: 

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.  

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. 

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. 

Martin Luther King, Jr included the above-mentioned lines as part of his concluding remarks. Thus, it created a lasting effect in the minds of the audience.

B) Metaphor

This rhetorical device cites an implied comparison between the actual idea and similar thought.

This way, the audience gets a better idea about the intensity and relevance of the idea. 

The Impact It Holds

A metaphor helps in painting a picture alive in minds of the audience and enables them to make a comparison between the actual idea and similar thought. This way, they understand the relevance better.

It works best in descriptive speeches as it helps you to convey the message in a simple concise way and thereby, enables you to break down the complex information into simple information.

How To Incorporate ‘Metaphor’ In Your Speech?

Decide on the complex elements of your speech and think of relating them to a similar thought or experience. Remember that you do not want to break the simpler elements but the complex ones. Once you have found a similar thought or experience, make a comparison and join the two sentences.

Example

Let’s understand this by citing two metaphors from the speech ‘I Have A Dream’: 

  • ‘It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.’ 
  • ‘Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.’ 

C) Parallelism

This rhetorical device takes place when phrases in a sentence have similar grammatical structure. 

This enhances the listening experience of the audience by providing a rhythm to the speech because let’s face it – we all love rhythms. 

The Impact It Holds

It makes the idea memorable and easy to remember. Since it has a rhythm, it appeals to the emotions of the audience and holds their attention effectively. 

Parallelism works best for persuasive speeches as it enforces your idea effectively in a way that moves the audience.

How To Incorporate ‘Parallelism’ In Your Speech?

All you have to do here is to assign a rhythm to your speech. That’s it!

To assign a rhythm, look for repetitive grammatical elements in your speech and put them together efficiently. It could be verbs, sounds, nouns, anything.

Example

Let’s state an instance of parallelism from the speech, ‘I Have A Dream’: 

‘With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.’ 

Related Article: Getting Your ‘Wordsworth’: Poetry in Public Speaking 

Always Keep It ‘Real’!

As it has been rightly said, ‘It’s easier said than done’. 

Similarly, while delivering a speech, make sure that you are not exaggerating, overpromising or feeding any lies to your audience. 

Many a times, we get so engrossed in putting forward the solutions that we often don’t take into account the depiction of reality and the obstacles in the way of achieving a particular goal. 

The use of this technique shows that you are open to a two-way communication model by caring for the feedback of the audience.  

The audience needs to know that you understand and care about their situation even while putting forth your opinions.  

For instance, while motivating the citizens to unite together and walk on the path of racial justice, Martin Luther King said and I quote- 

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. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.’ 

This statement made the audience reaffirm their faith in Martin Luther King and helped him to establish his credibility as an orator.  

Popular Culture References

Referring to popular culture through resources

To establish the relatability quotient, it’s important for you to state a few popular culture references. 

Your audience needs to relate to you in order to trust and respect your ideas. 

Another reason for you to incorporate popular culture references lies in the complexity of certain facts or instances. 

You need to break down the complex elements in your speech with popular culture references so that the audience can understand it. 

A) How Does It Make Your Speech Relevant?

Incorporating popular culture references to your speech is a hack that most of the public speakers use but don’t speak about it.

That’s mainly because popular culture references makes your speech relatable, fun, interesting and make your audience believe that you get them. Just the presence of thought ‘Ah, I totally relate to this, this speaker understands me’ in the minds of the audience can establish you as a great orator.

In addition to this, referring trending topics and popular references show that you chose to stay updated with the current affairs, just to convey your thoughts through this speech.

So, this way, it adds to your credibility as a speaker and at the same time, shows the amount of dedication and efforts on your side.

B) Relevance With Respect To ‘I Have A Dream’

When we study this with reference to ‘I Have A Dream’, we find a few interesting observations: 

  • The tone of the speech sounds like a biblical sermon
  • The speech has a number of popular culture references like 
    • Old Testament of the Bible 
    • The patriotic song – ‘America: My Country, ‘Tis of Thee’ 
  • To explain how African-Americans have been denied the basic rights, he took help of a ‘bank situation’

-Well, irrespective of the race people belong to, everybody has had a similar banking experience 

-So, he compared the denial of rights with ‘the act of cashing a bad check’

3. Speech Delivery Lessons from ‘I Have A Dream’

To gain the trust of your audience and establish yourself as a credible orator, you must sound confident while delivering your speech. 

But, how do you transform yourself from being an anxious speaker to a confident one? 

Well, here are a few tips for you: 

Right Body Language Establishes Your Credibility As An Orator

While delivering a speech, non-verbal communication is just as significant. It helps in establishing credibility and trust.

Keep a few things about body language in mind while delivering a speech:

A) Maintain a straight posture with your arms on side. This gives out an indication to the audience that you are open to a two-way form of communication as well as interested in listening to the feedback of the audience.

B) Use right hand gestures to enhance the impact of your speech.

C) Right facial expressions aid to the narrative of your speech by attaching a sense of emotion to it.

We wrote an article on ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of body language’. Check it out to get acquainted with the body language guide to public speaking!

Set Pitch And Tonality Of Your Speech

Pitch of your voice can help you govern the mood.

While stating a positive fact, sounding enthusiastic and confident will result in a happy emotion. Similarly, while stating a negative and sad fact, sounding empathetic will result in a sad emotion.

For instance, while citing the injustices against the African-Americans, Martin Luther King sounded really empathetic. The extent of his sadness towards these injustices was visible in the form of voice tonality and facial expressions.

This gesture moved the audience emotionally and they started cheering for him, all the way more.

To ace this technique, check out ‘All You Need to Know about Voice Modulation & Tonality for Public Speaking’.

Practice Is The Key To A Successful Speech

This is something that can break or make your performance.

Practice as much as you can. Before your performance, either you can practice in front of the mirror or record yourself to self-assess your performance. This will help you realize the possible scope for improvement and you will be able to make required changes to your presentation techniques.

To get familiar with simple yet effective processes to practice your speech, read ‘Simple Hacks to practice for your speech’ to get some ideas!

Importance Of Vocal Variety

There’s a thin line between being expressive and being dramatic. While delivering any particular speech, try being expressive but at the same time, avoid being dramatic as it might intend an over-exaggeration from your end.

Thus, this lesson on vocal variety is really important for you!

Effective Pauses And Voice Modulation

In the speech ‘I Have A Dream’, King employed effective pauses and voice modulation to stress on the important elements of his speech such as delivery of the consequent phrases of ‘I Have A Dream that one day…’ Here, there is an effective pause after the phrase, ‘I Have A Dream’.

It clearly gives out the message that given the intensity of the issue, justice would take time to prevail but one day, the shared dream would become a reality.

To highlight the key phrases of your speech, make sure that you are loud enough so that the audience can register the important facts. In his speech, King highlighted key phrases by being just adequately loud.

Remember not to be extremely loud as it will result in a ‘noise’ and not a ‘loud voice’

Keep The Right Pace

While on one hand, a fast pace would reduce the understandability quotient of your speech. On the other hand, a slow pace would disinterest your audience.

So, maintaining just the right pace is crucial in public speaking.

In the speech ‘I Have A Dream’, King delivered the content with a duration of 16 minutes. However, if you look closely at the transcript of the speech, you would feel that the duration could be shortened.

But, here’s the catch! King was mindful of the wide audience and impact he wished to make. So, he deliberately maintained a certain pace so that the audience could understand each and every bit of the speech without getting lost.

4. Audience Analysis of ‘I Have A Dream’

The imminent audience of the speech, ‘I Have A Dream’ encompassed a gathering of 250,000 people at Lincoln Memorial, Washington.

Apart from this, millions of people listened to Martin Luther King as he delivered his speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. This was possible because of the live telecast of the speech via radio and television.

The speech ‘I Have A Dream’ continues to stand relevant, even in today’s times, because of its dynamic audience. Anyone who seeks to stand for equality and freedom comprises the audience of this iconic speech.

Dynamic Audience of 'I Have A Dream'

Taking into account the varied audience of the speech, King sustained a certain level of simplicity while delivering the speech ‘I Have A Dream’.

An issue as complex and sensitive as ‘Racial Justice’ was simplified in such a way that even a toddler could understand the content and have a takeaway from that speech.

Molded in the form of a story for easy understanding, ‘I Have A Dream’ limited the use of jargons and explained the content in layman’s terms by sparing the complex historical details in order to reach every strata of the audience.

King directed the audience towards important parts of the speech through effective pauses and voice modulation.

While maintaining the overall tone of the speech similar to that of a biblical sermon (something that people are used to listening in their daily lives), the audience could easily pay attention to the idea he had to convey.

By breaking down the complex content with the use of relatable experiences like ‘cashing a bad check’ and painting the ideas alive in form of metaphors and simile, the content of the speech was understood by almost everyone. Thus, it resulted in a lasting impact.

Figuring out the possible obstacles in the way of protests, King stressed on the fact that even though the great changes happen gradually, one must remain consistent in terms of his beliefs and continue fighting for justice to prevail.

Most importantly, King catered his speech to people from every race and called for a ‘united stand for justice’.

Impact Of ‘I Have A Dream’

The speech had a lasting impact on the minds of its listeners by drawing resemblance with each and every global citizen.

Let’s list a few legislative changes brought by this speech

1. The Passage of Civil Rights Act in 1964.

As a result of Civil Rights Act, racial segregation in public spaces ended up to a larger extent.

To acknowledge a few- racial segregation in educational institutions, healthcare and public transportation reached a standstill.

2. The Passage of National Voting Rights Act in 1965

With the introduction of National Voting Rights Act, racial segregation legally ended in America.

When the adequate laws are not in place, the situation worsens and so was the case in 1950s. Thus, this act put the people at ease with a hope for a better future.

3. Impact on Kennedy Administration

The then President John F. Kennedy watched the speech on television and was really moved by King’s powerful words.

After the Washington March, the prominent leaders who organized this march were invited to the White House to meet President Kennedy. Most evidently, the speech helped President Kennedy to gain the popular opinion for his civil rights bill.

Interestingly, all these developments did not spur any discouragement from the White People as King always emphasized for unity and called out both black and white people to work in harmony towards equality.

Because, after all, we all share the same dream, that is, the creation of a more accepting and welcoming society.

In addition to this, every now and then, the speech is being quoted by great speakers to enhance the impact of their respective speeches.

Famous Quotes From ‘I Have A Dream’

  • I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
  • I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.
  • I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal’
  • We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.

Other Iconic Speeches To Draw Inspiration From  

Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln 

You can find the transcript here.

We Shall Fight On The Beaches

You can find the transcript here.

The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama 

You can find the transcript here.

Final Thoughts

It would only be fair to say that this speech led America to a pathway towards racial justice and reduced racism up to a larger extent.

Most evidently,

  • The well-structured format
  • Portrayal of a clear and concise vision
  • Brilliant presentation techniques

owe to the popularity of the speech, ‘I Have A Dream’.

Apart from that, this speech is indeed a great source of learning! Just by imbibing inspiration from this speech, a speaker can ace his presentation techniques and a writer can master the research processes involved in writing an amazing article from the scratch.

Be it the Civil Rights Movement of the past or the Black Lives Matter Movement of the present, this speech continues to come out as a major source of inspiration for the positive developments in the society.  

To sum it all up, this speech inspired the global citizens towards a significant paradigm shift from a segregated society to a society devoid of racial discrimination and segregation. 

In this blog, we analyzed Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ and tried to draw public speaking lessons from the very same speech. 

We hope that this blog aids in your public speaking skills by drawing inspiration from ‘I Have A Dream’. 

Pratiksha Mishra

Pratiksha Mishra is a media student and one of the writers at Frantically Speaking. Apart from being known for giving out the best cafe recommendations, she is also an avid reader and fond of giving The Big Bang Theory references. Having had her fair share of experience in public speaking, she is here to share her experiences and learnings.