S+L logo

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Martin Luther King

April 4, 2018
CNS Photo/Paul Haring
Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. King's message spoken that day during the March on Washington, still has a lasting and universal impact.  King was the sixteenth out of eighteen people to speak that day, according to the official program.  His address has been widely hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric since it invokes the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States Constitution.
Anaphora, the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of sentences, is a rhetorical tool employed throughout the speech.  The most widely cited example of anaphora is found in the often quoted phrase "I have a dream..." which is repeated eight times as King paints a picture of an integrated and unified America for his audience. Other occasions when King used anaphora include "One hundred years later," "We can never be satisfied," "With this faith," "Let freedom ring," and "free at last." king_crop
According to U.S. Representative John Lewis, who also spoke that day as the president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, "Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations."
The ideas in the speech reflect King's personal experiences of the mistreatment of blacks. The rhetoric of the speech provides redemption to America for its racial sins. King describes the promises made by America as a "promissory note" on which America has defaulted. He says that "America has given the Negro people a bad check", but that "we've come to cash this check" by marching in Washington, D.C.
Today let us give thanks to God for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a true prophet of our times, who taught us how to dream and how to realize those dreams.  Let us pray for all those like him, who continue to struggle for justice, equality and peace in our time.
Excerpt from the conclusion of Dr. King's famous address:
"I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains 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 is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."