Martin Luther King Jr. , son of Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. , was born on Tuesday, January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Excelling in academics, at the age of 15, King went on to Morehouse College, in his junior year of high school without an actual graduation, as a result from high scores on his college entrance exams. Graduating from Morehouse College in 1948 with a B. A. in Sociology, King went on to enroll at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, while also studying at the University of Pennsylvania.
King was seen as a well-respected leader early on, as he was elected president of the senior class, among many other achievements. Eventually, King graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1951 from Crozer Theological Seminary, and went on to study Systematic Theology at Boston University, also spending some time studying at Harvard University. King earned a Ph. D. in Systematic Theology from Boston University in 1955. Throughout his lifetime, King was awarded numerous honorary degrees, ranging from humanities to divinities, from many colleges all over the world.
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Upon entering the Christian ministry in 1948, King became Assistant Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and eventually went on to become Pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954 until 1959. In 1957, King founded and became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, helping direct activities of the Civil Rights Movement. King was president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization that led the prosperous Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted from 1955 to 1956.
King served on numerous boards of directors and trustees, and was arrested thirty times for his participation in the Civil Rights Movement. King received hundreds of awards and certificates for his active effort in the Civil Rights Movement, including earning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35 (Brown). King’s famous speech, “I Have a Dream”, has gone down in history as one of the most influential and revolutionary speeches of all time. While touching on various destructive affairs occurring at that time, King used many different modes of rhetoric in order to capture and entice the listener.
King’s structure of the speech is appeals to everyone who is involved in the present situation: the blacks affected by the situation, the whites who consider racial action and thought normal, and those who thought blacks to be evil and deemed the whole civil rights movement unnecessary. By doing so, King demonstrates a harsh, but true, reality on who is really to blame for this multitude of injustice. Through use of ethos, logos, and pathos, King also brilliantly appeals to listeners.
Through ethos, King places the white man as a tyrant, making whites feel to blame through broken promises of freedom and equality for all, stated in the Constitution of the United States of America. Through logos, King refers to Lincoln, one of the most admired men of in United States history, as being a primary advocate of African American freedom, as it was his decision to free the slaves. As for pathos, King proclaims that the blacks are imprisoned by actual racism in itself and that the white people are to blame.
King also alludes to Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”, and the Bible, reminding the reader that racism is also wrong in the eyes of God. King also makes use of rhetorical questions, metaphors, and anaphora, all for the purpose of emphasis. With all of these crucial elements of public speaking combined, King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” has been characterized as one of the most significant, prominent, and all-time greatest speeches recorded in history. King’s commitment to the people, meaningful speeches, and non-violent strategic actions empowered those without a voice, and eventually changed America for the better (L. ).